Volunteers work to improve environment

Two Franklin Middle School students search for trash in Boneyard Creek on Saturday. The clean-up lasted from 9 a.m. to noon and was part of the Boneyard Arts Festival. Beck Diefenbach

Two Franklin Middle School students search for trash in Boneyard Creek on Saturday. The clean-up lasted from 9 a.m. to noon and was part of the Boneyard Arts Festival. Beck Diefenbach

By Brittany Abeijon

Hundreds of volunteers met at Scott Park, 207 E. Springfield Ave., Saturday morning for the 2nd annual Boneyard Creek Community Day, in connection with the weekend-long Boneyard Arts Festival.

“This event has allowed us to look at the Boneyard in a different way,” said Joe Petry, University professor and a co-chair for this year’s Boneyard Creek Community Day. “It gets people to think of it as a natural treasure to be protected and cared for instead of as a dumping ground.”

Participants were assigned activities involving digging storm drains, picking up trash and removing invasive vegetation to replace with plants native to the Urbana-Champaign area. All of these activities prevent garbage from going straight to the area’s rivers and streams, Petry said.

“Boneyard Creek offers a unique way to give back,” Petry said. “It has a long history in our community and it ties all three parts of the community together – the University, Champaign and Urbana – and it is a key part of our natural environment that we care for.”

A large number of groups and sponsors helped organize and plan this year’s event including the Champaign and Urbana Park Districts, the University and many others. Around 600 volunteers participated in the community day, as opposed to only 300 participants last year.

“Having them so involved in the event really helps them understand how much our community cherishes the creek,” Petry said.

“When this many people choose to volunteer their Saturday morning to come out and drudge through the creek it sends a real message,” Petry said.

Michelle DeKeyrel, sophomore in Business, volunteered her Saturday morning and was assigned a large block of space on campus to pick up trash along with three of her friends.

“The massive amount of volunteers in the morning was phenomenal,” DeKeyrel said. “There was a huge sense of community going on that could not be avoided.”

DeKeyrel said that she was really into volunteering in high school, but, since being at the University, had not done very much and took this opportunity to help out once more.

After receiving their assigned activity, each participant was given a free T-shirt that displayed a fish icon with a logo that read, “No Dumping – Drains to Boneyard Creek.”

For three hours, volunteers cleaned up their assigned areas and were later rewarded for their hard work with a free lunch at noon.

Eliana Brown, program coordinator in the Environmental Compliance department of the University’s Facilities and Services, helped coordinate the University’s portion of the day.

The University’s Facilities and Services funded the campus supplies this year with the goal of applying 300 storm drain markers, she said.

“Rainwater washes litter into the creek through the storm drain inlets,” Brown said. “Picking up litter keeps the Boneyard clean and beautifies our campus.”