By Mike Ireland
The number of people participating in the Como Park cleanup events is progressively increasing, with each person giving the most valuable, most meaningful, and most precious thing possible – their time.
At our Lake Como Cleanup events, volunteers meet at the Pavilion to get tools, supplies and have a refreshment. Then they walk along the lake pedestrian paths or the shoreline and pick up trash.
Throughout our autumn Curb Cleanup, created by Janna Caywood, neighbors clean fallen leaves from street gutters (also known as “curbs”) in front of their homes. This prevents rainwater from leaching phosphorus and nitrogen from the leaf litter flowing into the storm drains, which otherwise would empty into Lake Como and the Mississippi River resulting in algae growth.
There is nothing magical about doing the hard work. Yet, when we collectively do the hard work, something magical does happen. We realize we accomplish much more together than individually.
The four years tracking results for the Lake Como Cleanup and the previous seven years of the Como Curb Cleanup reveal how much impact citizen participants can make in that time:
- 259 people removed 1,206 pounds of trash in and around Como Lake
- Over 1,000 people cleared 192,000 feet (equivalent to 21 times around the lake) of leaves from residential street
- This combined work prevented approximately 60 pounds of phosphorus from entering the watershed that otherwise could have fueled 15 tons of weeds
We know we cannot solve all the environmental problems or completely reverse all the damage already done. We don’t need to. All we need to do is never give up and persistently and enthusiastically keep participating in the earth’s healing by engaging in a local solution, such as our cleanup events, to improve the health of our water.
Inspired to give back a portion of what Como Park, Como Lake and the community have given me, seven years ago, as a Como Community Council board member and its Environment committee chair, I organized the Lake Como Cleanup. Using Capitol Region Watershed District‘s (CRWD) Partner Grant program, we purchased tools and supplies. Without the Partner Grants and the strong relationships among the community, the Como Community Council, Parks and Rec as well as CRWD, we would have been unable to achieve those results.
Also seven years ago, I joined the Como Active Citizen Network’s leadership team. This organization coordinated the annual Como Curb Cleanup until 2021, when the Como Community Council assumed responsibility for continuing its success.
It is a simple matter of scale that our combined efforts, with no exaggeration, reveal we absolutely can, and we most definitely do, make all the difference in the world for our interconnected local environment. By improving what is immediately before us, we can change the world. That’s how consequential these cleanups are. It gives us an opportunity to change the world.
Our first Lake Como Cleanup of the season is next Tuesday, May 23, anytime between 5 and 8 PM, starting from the Como Pavilion Lakeside area (near the Ice Cream stand). We provide trash-grabbers, rakes, buckets, trash bags, and nitrile gloves for those who need them. Or, feel free to provide your own gear.
Registration (before May 22) is not required, but it helps us plan and communicate if changes come up. We hope to see you there.
The author, Mike Ireland, is recipient of the Capitol Region Watershed District’s 2022 Watershed Citizen Steward award given to an individual who demonstrates a personal commitment to citizen engagement, project initiation or exceptional leadership.
Thanks to Sonjie Johnson for her assistance with this article and the motivation to actually do it.
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