Nearly 90 volunteers gathered together last weekend to help clean up Veterans Memorial and Jefferson Parks. They picked up roughly 1,500 pounds of trash that included two bed frames, three mattresses, a shopping cart, an old stereo unit, portable grills, 23 tires, old carpet and garden hoses, not to mention all the plastic bottles and other miscellaneous trash.
"Around the country, we use something like two million plastic bottles every five minutes, and nearly 80 percent of those plastic bottles never make it into the recycling stream," said Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi, who spoke to the volunteers before they got started. "We are going to change that here in eastern Prince William with all of your help. Today is all about picking up and recycling plastic in the park. Thank you all for coming out this morning in this cold weather to help us clean up the park and eliminate our plastic problem in eastern Prince William."
With that, the volunteers were off to work. Brendon Shaw, of Haymarket, said he heard about the cleanup through his work and thought it was a good idea to come out and help. "As residents of Prince William County, we think it's important to pitch in and help where we can. I thought it was a great opportunity to get out and do that. It's close to home, and it's a beautiful park, and we want to take care of it."
Mazil Rhim, of Gainesville, brought his four-, eight-, 12- and 16-year-old daughters to the cleanup to set an example. "We have to teach our kids that we have to keep nature clean."
Talon Morris, of Front Royal, also came to help since his father works in Prince William County. He said trash offends his sensibilities. "I just hate looking at trash. I don't like seeing it, so I want to get rid of it."
Meagan Landis, the constituent services and policy manager in Principi's office, said the goal of the cleanup, aside from keeping the parks looking nice, is to collect data that will aid in procuring grants.
"The whole point of quantifying it is part of a bigger project where we are trying to get federal money for litter traps. We've identified areas where the litter is making its way into the waterways at these natural collection points, and we want to install these litter traps, so we're pursuing federal grant money."
Janet LaFleur, the operations manager for the county's Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, said that trash accumulates over the summer between cleanups and it's hard to get to when the brush is at its thickest in the summer. Fall and winter are better for cleanups, LaFleur said. "That's when we can really get in there and get that stuff out."
The county's Parks, Recreation and Tourism and Public Works Departments, Keep Prince William Beautiful, the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District, Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition, Adopt a Stream and the Responsible Battery Coalition partnered with Principi's office to help with the cleanup.