COVENTRY — Thanks to dozens of volunteers who pitched in during the town’s annual Earth Day event, the streets and parks of Coventry are a lot cleaner today than they were last week.
Except for in 2020, when it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the town has hosted an Earth Day cleanup event every April for around six years.
“We thought it was important to get people out and to learn the importance of Earth Day,” Jackie Anthony, recycling coordinator for the Town of Coventry, said Tuesday of the decision to continue the tradition this year.
During a typical cleanup event, volunteers would gather at the Coventry Department of Public Works (DPW) in the morning, before heading out to clean the town and then meeting back up to enjoy lunch together. But amid the ongoing pandemic, the event was run a little differently this year.
Participants on Saturday went out in their own small groups to local areas of their choosing. During the week leading up to the event, one person from each group stopped by the DPW to retrieve gloves, safety vests and glasses, trash bags and face masks, as well as copies of the COVID plan and safety guidelines.
As the volunteers got to work, Anthony and a couple of public works employees traveled around to the various cleanup sites to distribute coffee and donuts, donated by the Dunkin’ on Tiogue Avenue; they later distributed 12 large pizzas, donated by The Olde Theater Diner.
Dave’s Marketplace also contributed to the cause by donating a gift card that was used to purchase bags and water bottles for the volunteers.
Donning bright yellow vests and face masks, more than 40 volunteers hit the streets Saturday.
Anthony was thrilled with the turnout, she said, and is hopeful that the event will grow each year.
“They definitely exceeded all of my expectations this year,” she said, adding that because of the pandemic she was unsure what to expect.
East Shore Drive, Red Oak Estates, Arnold Road, Hill Farm Road and the Nathanael Greene Homestead were among the locations hit, while the Pawtuxet River Authority focused on an area surrounding the river. Jennifer Ludwig, vice president of the Coventry Town Council, took a group to Station Street; Council President Ann Dickson and her husband tackled part of Route 117 on Saturday after cleaning the area around Perry Hill Road on Friday.
Dickson travels Route 117 daily, she said afterward, and was surprised by the amount of litter — including an old political sign she estimated was at least seven years old — that she found strewn along the roadway.
“I hardly notice the roadside unless there is a flying plastic bag,” she said. “If you stop on the roadside and look around, you will see a much different picture. It is quite easy to stop in one location and fill a trash bag.”
She found all kinds of trash near Francis H. Sherman Memorial Park, as well.
“In the thickets we found the following: a large, heavy cardboard firework container, affixed to a wooden block; left-over foam containers, some with worms still intact; bottles; nip plastic and glass containers; cans; a COVID mask; and plenty of broken glass washed up on the edge of Johnson’s Pond,” she said in an email.
In all, Anthony said, volunteers collected close to 2,000 pounds of garbage from throughout the town Saturday.
“Route 117 collects a lot. Once something is thrown out of a moving car, the item rolls down the embankment and/or gets stuck in the thickets. This trash is a chore to remove, and it remains a long, long time,” Dickson continued. “There is a lot to enjoy in Coventry. A beautiful landscape can add to the enjoyment.”
In addition to bringing the community together while raising awareness around environmental issues, Anthony added, making Coventry an even better place for its residents is a major impetus behind the annual Earth Day cleanup.
“Together,” she wrote in a report on the event, “we made the Town of Coventry, an already great place to live, even better.”