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Pick up on Highway 3: Thousands participate in Fairbanks clean-up

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Posted: Sunday, May 9, 2010 4:09 am | Updated: 1:07 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks highways were once again swarmed by yellow trash bags and thousands of volunteer garbage collectors Saturday.

Fairbanks’ Cleanup Day is an annual pickup party to clean up Fairbanks-area streets after spring snow melt exposes a winter’s worth of trash on the city’s roadside.

It was organized by the United Way of Tanana Valley. Though there is no official count yet, about 5,000 people take part every year, cleaning everything from heavily used highways such as the Steese to rural roads.

Volunteers in a fleet of trucks took the bags from roadsides to the borough landfill. After Cleanup Day, the yellow bags should be dropped off at the landfill.

“Definitely, in my opinion, Alaska is the cleanest and purest state,” said Eric Grenier, one of about 100 people picking up litter by the Johansen Expressway. “We’d like to keep it that way.”

It was Grenier’s first time taking part in Cleanup Day, and he was surprised at the amount of litter and odd items such as two half-full containers of motor oil.

“It looks bad from the road, but when you get down here, it’s even worse,” he said.

Near the south shoulder, Shanya Kennedy and several others were diligently plucking strips of paper from the grass. A trash bag full of shredded paper had been left on the side of the road. The volunteers’ best guess was that it fell out of a truck.

Kennedy was enjoying working outside, but there was one minor annoyance.

“There’s a lot of cigarette butts,” she said “It’s a little irritating.”

The butts are one of the volunteers’ biggest nuisances every year.

Chief Warrant Officer II Chip Steele said that with enough people, no trash — big or small — is too daunting. His 3-foot grabbing tool eased the task, too.

“What surprises me the most is the amount of help we get,” he said. “Fairbanks is a mess after the snow melts, but after Cleanup Day it looks beautiful.”

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