FAYETTEVILLE -- A program the city is supporting has resulted in more than 181,000 pounds of trash picked up along trails.
Crews picked up most of that trash this year.
The city's Environmental Action Committee heard about the progress of the Pick Me Up program during its Monday meeting. Heather Ellzey, environmental educator for the city, told the committee program participants have picked up about 115,000 pounds so far this year. That's in addition to about 66,000 pounds picked up since the program began in summer 2022.
The City Council included $100,000 for the program in this year's budget. Another $100,000 is slated for the program next year if the council approves the overall city budget during its regular meeting today.
The program pays largely unsheltered residents to pick up litter along trails and homeless campsites in partnership with Genesis Church. The groups primarily focus on trails and known campsites on the south part of town, near 7 Hills Homeless Center.
Ellzey said the program has made the most of its available money this year. Names are drawn from a lottery three days a week at 7 Hills to have teams of five at a time set out to pick up trash. At least 125 individuals have participated so far this year, she said.
The program, overseen by Genesis Church, was able to buy a dump truck this year, Ellzey said. The Police Department donated $25,000 out of its forfeiture fund and Genesis bought the truck during a government auction, she said.
Crew members of the program helped divert more than 21,000 pounds of electronic waste from the landfill through a partnership with Free Geek of Arkansas on Ash Street, Ellzey said. Three team members worked three days a week for four hours a day in July and August, helping to sort materials and get them ready for pickup to take for recycling, she said.
Pick Me Up crew members also built 10 dog kennels at 7 Hills so clients would have a safe place to put their furry friends while receiving services. Additionally, crews with the program picked up trash from Razorback football tailgaters at the Leverett Elementary School parking lot and trash from Fayetteville Falltoberfest on Oct. 1.
The operation has been such a success that a second team has come on board. A second crew of five has gone out twice a week since Nov. 1 to pull invasive plants on publicly owned land along trails. The second crew works with Beaver Watershed Alliance to do the work.
"It's been a really positive impact, from our perspective, on the watershed and keeping it clean for our drinking water health," said Emily Finley with Beaver Watershed Alliance. "Hopefully it continues to be something positive for the community as well. We've really enjoyed it."
Josh Park with Genesis Church said trash along trails near campsites often is a manifestation of the trauma unsheltered residents experience. Taking part in the program has helped many of those residents heal, he said.
"We've had the opportunity to take people who have traditionally been a problem in their area and shown they can be an integral part of the solution," Park said. "When that becomes the case, you've solved two problems at once."
Committee members praised the group's work. Chairman Jeff Pummill said the reason the program works is because of the sense of community it fosters. He said he could tell just from pictures the participants had a sense of accomplishment and dignity while doing the work.
"It's great that we're getting trash off the ground and these environmental things are happening, but it's a whole cohesive project that's yielding across-the-board value," Pummill said. "It's really heartening to see these things happening."
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