AUGUSTA — A cloudy sky didn’t deter a small group of area residents from participating in what’s become an annual Earth Day ritual: a cleanup of trash in downtown Augusta.

The cleanup itself took place Saturday morning, a day after Earth Day. The five participants first gathered in the grassy park on Market Square, then spent the first part of the morning picking up litter along lower Water Street and in the parking area at the end of the Kennebec River Rail Trail. Later in the morning, they crossed over to the waterfront park on Front Street.

All the volunteers wore gloves and dumped their pickings into garbage bags.

They found hundreds of cigarette butts strewn about the downtown, along with discarded bottles, boxes, coffee cups and pieces of broken glass. Among their more surprising finds were a half of a ceramic plate and a dead fish measuring a foot in length, both of which had been left in the woods near the rail trail parking area.

“Who’s just walking around with a half a plate?” wondered Dan Emery, the cleanup’s organizer and the discoverer of the discarded kitchenware.

Emery, who works for the Maine State Credit Union, is a board member of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, a nonprofit group that seeks to promote economic development and revitalization downtown. He has organized the Earth Day cleanups for a half dozen years, and he said they normally are attended by eight to 15 people.

Just five showed up this year, and according to Emery, the low turnout might be related to an event posting he created on Facebook but forgot to make available to the public.

Also, other cleanups might have been taking place around Augusta at the same time. One crew was cleaning up a dog park Saturday morning on Canal Street, according to an unrelated posting on the Augusta Police Department’s Facebook page. On Earth Day itself, a group of students and faculty members at the University of Maine at Augusta celebrated by doing work in the school’s community garden.

Though one of the goals of Saturday’s cleanup was to clear trash from downtown, Emery acknowledged the tallness of that order.

“You may not notice it at first, but once you see it, you see it everywhere,” he said of the little pieces of litter that can accumulate quietly along sidewalks and in the vegetation. “You could spend a week out here and not get everything.”

But just as important to the amount of trash they cleared was the fact that they were out and contributing in a small way to the traditional heart of the city, according to Emery and several of the other volunteers.

“It gives us a sense of pride. It makes a little difference,” said Emery. “And it’s also fun hanging out and making jokes.”

“I live out here in Augusta, and I just thought I’d give some time to downtown,” said Deb Violette, a resident who runs the foundation Free ME from Lung Cancer. “I just hope to see some revitalization down here.”

“It’s great to get outdoors and show our commitment to downtown,” said Michael Hall, director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance. “We all love this city.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

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Twitter: @ceichacker