GARDINER — Elliot Gilg held a black trash bag wide open for his father, Kerstin Gilg, as he climbed up from the riverbank with a hand full of trash.

“Last year, we cleaned it all up and we came back a week later and the trash was back,” 6-year-old Elliot said. “I was like, ‘Come on, man!’ But even if it adds back up, I feel good about cleaning it.”

“Really good cleaning it,” he said moments later.

Elliot and his father, alongside his 14-year-old brother, Alden, and mother Ilana, dedicated their morning to clean up trash along the riverbank of the Cobbossee Stream. The banking was one of 31 locations around the Cobbossee Watershed that drew participants on Saturday.

The clean up is something the Gilg family does every year, but this year was more special as Alden prepares for his bar mitzvah in June. Before he can have his bar mitzvah, however, in an effort to give something back to the community, he has to complete 13 mitzvots — part of what guides Jews to lead a good life.

“We’re doing it to help the Earth and for my bar mitzvah,” Alden said, who was not able to have his celebration last year because of the pandemic.

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The Gilg family collected nearly five bags of trash and by 10:30 a.m., those who picked up trash along the river behind Gardiner’s Main Street had collected 28 pounds. By noon, 100 pounds of trash had been collected from Gardiner alone.

By the end of the event, the 107 volunteers — including 75 who signed up on Saturday — were able to collect 2,237 pounds of trash from the Cobbossee Watershed area. In all, 640 volunteer hours were logged.

The Day of Caring was sponsored by The Boys and Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley and had 13 partners — the most ever. People who volunteered either showed up to the site where they chose to clean up, or arrived at the club on Pray Street at 8 a.m. and were assigned places to go.

Other activities of the day included picking up the leftovers from the Wreaths Across America event at the local cemeteries and tending to the gardens along Gardiner’s waterfront. People with Boys and Girls Clubs blue shirts could be seen all around town with black plastic bags.

People were encouraged to keep track of the trash they picked, with each bag being weighed at the end.

Pete Giampetruzzi pulls a piece of trash he collected off his homemade trident tipped trash picker Saturday along banks of Cobbossee Stream in Gardiner. He and a hundred other volunteers collected more than a ton of garbage from 31 sites while cleaning up the Cobbossee Watershed during the annual Day of Caring. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Bobbie Pirrucello and Zach Wanberg, who just moved to the area, operated the weighing station. Both decided picking up trash was one way to give back to their new community.

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“It’s important and we can see the community flourish,” Pirrucello said.

Sharon Whittier of Randolph, who joins in the event yearly with the Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed group, said based on what she collected last year, she believes there was less trash this year. Whittier said there were certainly less plastic bags, which made sense with Maine’s ban on plastic bags. Saturday’s collection included 315 plastic bags.

The bags, however, appear to have been replaced with disposable face masks.

“It’s a chance to get out and clean the area to make sure it doesn’t go in the water,” Whittier said.

Tina Wood is a member of Upstream, an organization that seeks to help the alewife species of fish bypass dams as they work their way upriver to spawn. This was Upstream’s sixth time partnering with The Day of Caring cleanup.

Ahead of the event, Wood said she has noticed the trash along the river, namely nip bottles and cigarette butts, can make its way into the river and then flow into the ocean. She hopes Saturday’s event will spread awareness of the importance of keeping the environment clean.

“If people are connected to their place, they will care for it and love it and keep it clean,” she said. “If you care about the place you live, you are going to make sure it’s well cared for.”

 


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