Less than a month after they were charged with underage drinking, a group of roughly 20 teenagers and young adults spent the better part of Saturday picking up garbage as part of a program aimed at keeping them out of court.

The first-ever Landowner Appreciation Clean-Up Day was an opportunity for teens to give back to their communities, said Capt. Daniel Davies of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office.

“Opportunities of this nature appear to be an alternative solution to putting teenagers through the judicial process, lessening the burden on the court but still providing a consequence to an illegal action,” Davies said. “We are also able to provide communities with added support in addressing areas in the environment that have become dumping grounds for household waste.”

Landowner Appreciation Clean-Up Day was developed by the sheriff’s office and Maine Forestry Service. Participants, the youngest of whom was 15, were given a choice of taking part in the eight-hour community service project or going through the court process. The program was limited to first-time offenders.

“If there was any type of history or previous dealings they wouldn’t have been eligible to participate,” Davies said.

Several parents opted to join their children in the cleanup, which was supervised by sheriff office and Forestry officials.

Davies said the parents’ participation “probably sets an example.”

The participants, except for the parents, were all charged in connection with an underage drinking party Aug. 18 off Kings Highway in Wayne.

Eleven juveniles and nine adults were issued summons on alcohol-related charges, including possession and consumption. The juveniles were released to the custody of their parents, who were called to pick the children up at the party.

Adults facing charges include three 18-year-old women, from Fayette and Readfield and Lewisberry, Pa.; two 18-year-old men, from Mount Vernon and Wayne; a 19-year-old Readfield woman; a 19-year-old Manchester man and two 20-year-old men, from Augusta and Winthrop.

Those charged gathered again over the weekend to pick up garbage from illegal dump sites off Chesterville Ridge Road in Fayette and Summerhaven Road in Augusta and Manchester. The group picked up about 5,000 pounds of trash and more than 50 discarded tires between the two sites. The trash was loaded into a truck provided by the Maine Forestry Service.

“Both agencies worked hand-in-hand to ensure a successful and safe environment for the workers,” Davies said.

Davies said there are about 100 known illegal dumping sites across the state and more clean-up days will be scheduled.

“Other community service events are surely to be scheduled in the future,” Davies said. “It’s a win-win for everybody involved.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

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