Wayne Emington picks up trash Saturday during a volunteer cleanup event along the Kennebec River Rail Trail and its immediate area in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — Ben Hummel deftly scrambled down the steep banking between the Kennebec River Rail Trail and the Kennebec River to snag a can of Budweiser.

He also grabbed a broken section of a large drainage pipe, scraps of metal, plastic coffee cups, plastic bags, random pieces of paper and cigarette butts, struggling against the weight of the trash bag of discarded items he collected. Once back up the banking, he lifted the newly full trash bag over the fence and onto the trail as Saturday morning walkers, runners and bicyclists happened by.

Neither the empty can of beer nor the other items he collected were the Augusta resident’s items, of course. But he and six other volunteers collected those and many more pieces of trash Saturday alongside the trail, between Augusta and Hallowell, as part of a cleanup organized by the Augusta pro-pedestrian and bicycling group Cyclists and Pedestrians Invigorating the Augusta Life, or CAPITAL.

“We’re just volunteers who care and want to make it better,” said Kalie Hess of Augusta, a leader of the group.

The small group formed last June and advocates for biking, walking and running safety measures around the city.

It was their second time collecting trash along the popular rail trail. Their first effort, earlier in the summer, focused on the section of trail between Memorial Bridge and the Kennebec Valley YMCA, where volunteers collected 13 bags of trash. That time, Hummel spent all his time collecting trash that had amassed under the bridge. Hess called him their “master trash picker-upper.”

Fallon Sweeney, left, and Kalie Hess pick up trash during a volunteer cleanup event Saturday along the Kennebec River Rail Trail in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Fallon Sweeney also ventured over the fence and off the trail to collect trash that could be seen in the woods, as did Wayne Emington. Keith Lind came armed with a rake, to clear leaves and other natural debris from the trail, and offshoots from it such as the scenic riverside Abby’s Overlook. All three volunteers are from Augusta.

Emington and Lind returned from a trip down a side trail with a bag full of the remnants of an abandoned campsite that didn’t appear had been used in a long time, including at least one sleeping bag and faded food wrappers.

“It looks like someone was camping down there and left behind a tarp and a sleeping bag that was nasty,” Emington said.

Hallowell residents Maureen and Alex Aucoin joined the effort shortly after the group had started, grabbing trash bags and hitting the trailsides for things to pick up and carry out.

Several walkers using the trail on the sun-drenched Saturday morning slowed to thank the volunteers for cleaning up.

Lind and Hess said it seemed like area trails are getting more use during the coronavirus pandemic, as they allow people to get exercise while still maintaining social distancing.

“I’ve seen a lot of people out,” walking the trails, Lind said. “Most people are making sure they give people some distance.”

Wayne Emington, left, and Keith Lind bag up an old wet sleeping bag that had been hanging on the fence Saturday during a volunteer cleanup event along the Kennebec River Rail Trail in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

All the volunteers taking part in Saturday’s cleanup wore masks as they worked. Much of the trail is about 10-feet wide, allowing users, if they stick to the edge of the trail and are in single file, to pass others traveling in the opposite direction without coming within 6 feet of each other.

Geese floated on the adjacent Kennebec River as and numerous chipmunks and squirrels helped with the clean up the surrounding woods, collecting some of the bounty of acorns that had fallen on the forest floor.


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