ALPENA - Driven to action by the sight of litter in their own neighborhoods, a group of volunteers from the Bare Point area in Alpena Township have banded together to collect roadside trash and begin a grassroots effort to clean up the town.
They call themselves "SouthSide Alpena Pride" and consist of at least six dedicated members so far, with occasional contributions and commitments from others. The group meets regularly or in pairs to collect litter up and down the US-23 South corridor, spotting an approximately four-mile stretch between Squaw Bay and Mich-e-ke-wis. Channel Road 1 resident Gary Parteka said the idea to clean up the ditches and lawns along the road started years ago with a discouraging morning stroll.
"Basically it started two years ago with Don (Duvall) and I walking to get a cup of coffee," he said. "We picked up all the trash in that ditch coming out of Bare Point. We just put our boots on, because we just figured somebody has to do it."
News Photo by Andrew Westrope
A half-dozen volunteers meet in the parking lot of St. Vincent de Paul’s in Alpena on Thursday for a morning litter-collecting excursion. Neighbors and friends in the Bare Point area south of town formed “SouthSide Alpena Pride” last month as a grassroots organization dedicated to cleaning up roadside ditches and lawns along US 23 South.
They started talking to others about chipping in about a month and a half ago, inspired by an article in The News about wheelchair-bound Alpena resident William Bates and his habit of collecting litter between errands. Parteka and Duvall's idea quickly grew into a pact between a handful of neighbors who now hope to inspire others and lead by example.
"I had been thinking about contacting The News about us just picking up garbage and seeing if I could get something started, and when that one hit the newspaper, it was just perfect timing," said Parteka. "We're going to concentrate just on this south side. There will be letters going out from the chamber asking people to commit to cleaning, doing something, maybe one or two projects a year, just to help make this area look better."
If momentum is any indication, their efforts have not been for naught. Bob and Sue Eller cleaned up the welcome sign across from Big Lots and planted shrubs around it, and Parteka said MDOT agreed to clean up gutters and do some patch repair in the area. He is also talking to some businesses about donating flowers, painting their exteriors, and keeping dumpsters out of view, and he hopes to set up a website to recruit email addresses from potential volunteers.
"The response has just been fantastic. It's just been overwhelming ... Right now it's just general cleanup, but we're so new at this," he said. "Basically what we're really trying to do is just make people aware, and hopefully encourage other people to start getting involved. Even if they're walking in town or wherever, take a bag and pick a few things up. And then try to see if we can encourage people to think before they roll their window down and throw their stuff out. This is our community. It doesn't have to look like this."
To pitch in, contact Larry Clark at 356-3210 or Gary Parteka at 356-1523.
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by