Ryan Alvarez, 7, scanned the roadside across from the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. His mission? “We want to take care of the environment,” he said.
“And the whole Earth,” chimed in his 6-year-old brother, Jared.
Saturday was Clean-Up Day, and the Alvarez family, including mom, Johanna, and sister, 4-year-old Lidia, decided to spruce up the neighborhood near their church.
They found cigars, napkins, cardboard, shopping bags and face masks. The children’s father, Ken, carried the telltale yellow Clean-Up Day bag.
With the blue sky, warm temperatures and passersby honking their horns in support, it made for happy work for dozens of people around Fairbanks. The annual collective action results in tons of litter removed from neighborhoods and roadsides in time for summer.
Last year, Clean-Up Day volunteers collected 10.5 tons of trash in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The goal this year is 17 tons or the equivalent to the weight of a school bus.
“We found some old luggage,” said Ivory Huffaker, 10, who was out near the Mitchell Expressway with her youth hockey team.
“We found two phones,” she said, “I was super excited. I thought it was a cool treasure.”
Her brother, 12-year-old Jonas Huffaker, said he found a strange-looking “metal thing” in some dirty water in a wooded area. He tried to get it but it was stuck so he gave up.
Later, children in their group found a bicycle.
Ten-year-old Aidan Austin worked along Peger Road with his parents. The most interesting thing he found was a sign saying “flammable solid,” he said.
Bob Hunter cleaned up along Farmers Loop Road with his 19-year-old daughter. He found a jerry can with gasoline still inside, he said.
Most of the trash came in the form of paper, cans, bottles, grocery bags and broken auto parts, Hunter said.
“It looks like odds and ends that may have blown out of vehicles,” he said.
The retired Alaska Department of Fish and Game worker said he has been helping on Clean-Up Day on and off for about 10 or 15 years.
“I live around the corner,” Hunter said. “We all like to have a nice drive. Seeing the litter around the road detracts from it.”
More than 100 groups registered to participate in the 2021 Clean-Up Day though registration was not required.
Sponsors included the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, the Midnight Sun Council Boy Scouts of America, Cowles Heating, The Fairbanks North Star Borough Central Recycling Facility, Green Star of Interior Alaska, The Radio Station, Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling, Explore Fairbanks, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the United Way of the Tanana Valley and the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMborough.