Cleanup Returning To Action

A group from Mount Marty University at the 2020 Fall Great American Cleanup in Yankton.

Spring is in the air, and in Yankton, one of the harbingers of the season is the Keep Yankton Beautiful (KYB) Great American Cleanup (GAC).

“Spring is associated with cleaning,” Sarah Gehm, KYB executive director, told the Press & Dakotan. “You just feel good about getting into that cleaning mode.”

KYB is inviting individuals and informal groups as well as area businesses, civic organizations, church groups and families to take part in the annual GAC, which is held annually on the same day across the U.S. to give individuals the opportunity to spruce up their communities, she noted.

This year’s GAC is set for 9-11 a.m. Saturday, April 24 at Fantle Memorial Park’s south picnic shelter. Bags and gloves will be available at that time. Preregistration is not required.

Usually, Yankton’s event comprises over 300 volunteers and collects more than 3,000 pounds of trash, Gehm said.

“Something we are doing a little bit differently this year is inviting groups and individuals to pick their own route.” she said. “If there’s a place that you’re passionate about, a favorite little patch along the bike trail, your favorite park or place that you frequent — if there’s a place that you get really fired up about cleaning up — we invite you to go ahead and claim it.”

A number of businesses have already chosen to clean up the area around their locations, and other groups are cleaning up their neighborhoods, Gehm said.

“If people want to claim their own cleanup route, we ask that you reach out to us ahead of time,” she said. “You can message us on Facebook or you can give me a call and I’m happy to reserve that route for you and make sure that you get to clean it.”

Groups can clean their routes between Saturday, April 24, and Saturday, May 1. Bags, gloves and routes will be provided to these groups and may be picked up at the park during the event on April 24.

“While we invite any groups who want to join us (April 24) at the picnic shelter, we also recognize that maybe that’s not the best time for your group,” Gehm said. “We just ask that groups who would like to do their cleanup on a day other than the actual GAC let us know and also keep track of their trash so we can add it to our totals.”

For those who don’t have a preference, routes can be assigned. Volunteers then walk or drive to their chosen or designated routes and pick up litter. Assigned routes typically take no more than an hour to clean, and volunteers may leave their collected garbage on the side of the route for KYB board members to collect, she said.

“You don’t have to worry about disposing of the trash; you don’t have to worry about putting a bag of trash into your vehicle and hauling it anywhere or paying to have it disposed of,” Gehm said. “We try to make it as absolutely easy as possible because you’re doing the community a service, and we’re trying to help you out while you’re helping us out.”

Assigned routes can be as easy or as challenging as participants want, Gehm said.

“If you want it to be, literally, a walk through the park or the cemetery with a few individuals, we welcome you to come and just take it at your own pace,” she said. “If you want it to be arduous, we can send you out there on a mile stretch of road with some big hunks of plastic and debris to pick up. But we want you to feel comfortable doing this event.”

KYB organizers try to cater it to all ability levels, all ages and all group sizes, she said.

The GAC event last spring was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but KYB was able to host an event last fall which, though smaller, went well, Gehm said.

“We’ve tossed around the thought of actually doing a fall cleanup in addition to our spring cleanup, just because Yankton could use a little love twice a year,” she said. “We’ve talked about how spring cleanup gets it all beautiful for the summer and then a fall cleanup just helps get it tidied up before the snow starts hitting us.”

The Keep Yankton Beautiful and Great American Cleanup (GAC) is the nation’s largest community improvement program, with over 500,000 volunteers participating within the hundreds of Keep America Beautiful affiliates nationwide, Gehm said.

“We’re really part of a nationwide effort to beautify our communities,” she said. “As the only South Dakota affiliate, it’s very exciting for us and we’re very proud to bring this event here to Yankton.”

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For more information or to reserve a route call KYB at 605-689-1600 or message Keep Yankton beautiful on Facebook.

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