Plenty of liter may have piled up on Belle Isle’s waterways over the winter but its long gone thanks to the record 1,401 volunteers who participated in the park’s annual Spring Clean-up.
On Saturday morning, April 27, they removed 1,276 lbs. of disposable plastic and other littered items from the canals, lakes and lagoons on the island.
It is a grass roots effort that makes a huge difference. The work the volunteers did in a single day amounts to more than 7,000 hours of in-kind work to support the efforts of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Belle Isle Conservancy maintaining the health of the island, says the conservancy.
“Belle Isle really does have the most passionate and dedicated volunteers and it’s so much fun to watch them work their magic,” says Genevieve Nowak, director of volunteer services for Belle Isle Park. “Spring Clean-up is my favorite day of the year at the park. It’s an amazing experience to see everyone come together and create this huge impact- and then celebrate afterwards. The energy on the island during Spring Clean-Up is unlike any event I’ve experienced. I look forward to it all year long.”
The Belle Isle Spring Clean-Up began in the 1970s with a small group of volunteers from the park’s surrounding community. They raked leaves, painted fences, and gardened at various sites around the island. There was some trash pick-up involved, but the focus of their work was on beautifying the park and the event concluded with a hot dog lunch each year.
Jan Ellison has been involved in the Belle Isle Clean-Ups almost from the beginning when the Friends of Belle Isle would get small groups of volunteers to help beautify the island. Each year the clean-up grew as more publicity was garnered and City Council members, the Detroit Recreation Department and Belle Isle Management came on board.
“The clean-up has had a positive impact on the island not only in the picking up trash, debris, and natural materials, but in the camaraderie between the volunteers who come to Keep Belle Isle Beautiful. It is a fun day for all on our wonderful Belle Isle,” says Ellison, a Belle Isle Conservancy board member. “Since the creation of the Belle Isle Conservancy, and the hiring of Genevieve Nowak as Director of Volunteer Services, the numbers have grown from around 50 thirty years ago to 1,401 this year.”
As in the past, the event still closes with the traditional hot dog lunch and a celebration of the accomplishments of the day.