If you clean it, they will come. At least that’s what a group of Tarleton State University students said when they decided to volunteer their weekend to spruce up Stephenville City Park.
The unsightly trash and debris that continually makes its way into the Bosque River became an eyesore in the park, says Michael King, a local college student who felt the need to clean up the river was a worthy cause.
On Saturday, King and five fellow TSU students were found combing the river from the Graham Street bridge towards the western edge of the city park picking up others’ waste in an effort to make the area more attractive.
The volunteer effort began when King and his friends decided the trash and debris needed to go after their numerous ventures into the park to fish from the pier, play football in the wide-open fields and walk their dogs along the Bosque.
During their visits to Stephenville City Park, King says he and friends try to pick up as much trash as they can but it’s simply too difficult to keep up with the continual accumulation of litter.
“We’re just a group of friends who come down here just about every day,” said King, an industrial technology major from Spicewood. “It came out of an idea to simply do some community service for the city because we’ve been using the park for two or three years now.”
Not shy about expressing his opinion of the filth that lines the stretch of river that runs through the park, King then approached Director of Community Services Drew Wells to ask if he and his friends could lend a hand somehow.
Wells, who welcomed the willingness of volunteers wanting to do the dirty job, admits that an offer that good doesn’t come around too often. “He (King) came in and asked if his buddies from Tarleton could come in and clean up the park after recognizing the need, so we said sure, we’d love to have you help out.”
Following King’s request, Wells accommodated the volunteers’ efforts by providing a flat-bottom aluminum boat, trash bags and grabbers to get the job done.
“I simply called Drew and asked if I could meet with him,” explained King. “He was very appreciative of the offer and asked if we wanted to do a clean-up twice a year.”
Starting early Saturday morning, the students made their way up and down the river discovering that the Bosque seemed more like the public’s own trash dump.
“If no one else is going to do it, it might as well be us,” said Noah Hoffman, a geoscience major from Dripping Springs, as he threw another fast food cup into his trash bag.
The students all agreed that the park is a great place to relax and enjoy outdoor recreation, but the amount of trash that is left behind by park users makes for unpleasant visits for everyone.
During their all-day quest to have the riverbank free of trash, the volunteers came across some interesting items even they couldn’t believe found its way into the Bosque.
Nursing student Courtney Roming, a native of Eddy, said the most interesting find of the day was a Toyota hub cap - most likely lost when a vehicle traveled across the Graham Street bridge. Other finds included dozens of styrofoam cups, beer cans, plastic grocery bags, an electrical extension cord and even a deceased possum.
“There are a lot of bread bags, so if you come down to feed the ducks please put them in the trash cans,” said Crystal Sims, an English major from Harper, who also frequents the park on a regular basis and offered advice for other park users.
Following their sweep of the Bosque, the student volunteers said they were proud of their efforts to make the city park and riverbed more enjoyable for everyone.
“We’ll plan another clean-up in the fall, and when we graduate we hope to try to bring more (students) in to take over,” said King. “It just makes you feel good to give back by doing something as small as picking up trash in the park because it benefits everyone, including the ducks down here.”
Residents interested in joining King and friends to organize a future city park clean-up may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.