A volunteer picking up trash at Scarborough Marsh. This year, the Earth Day clean-up is taking place from April 19 to May 2. Courtesy photo Linda Woodard

Courtesy photo Linda Woodard

SCARBOROUGH — In celebration of Earth Day, volunteers can help clean up the Scarborough Marsh any time in between April 19 and May 2.

This year’s clean-up event, usually held the Saturday after Earth Day, is spread out over two weeks due to COVID-19 safety concerns, said Linda Woodard of the Maine Audubon, one of the event’s organizers.

Volunteers may pick up bags and gloves at the Scarborough Maine Audubon Center on 92 Pine Point Road, starting on April 19, said a release from Maine Audubon. There is a designated collection spot at the center, and the Scarborough Public Works Department will pick up trash on May 3.

People should make sure their collected trash is tied tightly in bags, Woodard said.

She said people can contact her at [email protected], or call 415-8331. Volunteers are encouraged to email her photos during their time spent trash collecting and share stories.

“I’m really open if people want to contact me and tell me what they’re doing,” she said. “Then I can say, ‘Oh, that section’s been covered. Why don’t you go over here?’ or something like that. But just they can bring their trash to the marsh, the nature center, and drop it off there if they like.”

Much of the trash comes from people who throw discarded items from their car windows, which is harmful to the wildlife, Woodard said. Materials such as candy bar wrappers smell like food to animals, but these are indigestible and can be fatal if consumed.

“I think the people who come to these (events) probably aren’t the ones who throw trash out the window,” she said. “But if people are walking and they want to — just once every couple of weeks or once a week when they’re going for a walk — every time you’re going for a walk out in Scarborough, you just take a bag to pick up trash. And just try to educate others in a kind way. If you see somebody drop something, just sort of talk to them about it without getting too angry because that doesn’t help. But just kindly educate people about why it’s important to use trash receptacles and not throw things on the ground.”

People who help clean the area can feel that they’re making an impact, she said.

“There’s a lot of trash in the marsh right now, so we do need to clean it up,” Woodard said. “We usually have two clean-ups per year. We have one around Earth Day, April 22, and then we have one in the fall, sort of after the summer. It’s just really good to get out there and get the trash out of the marsh. We find tires — all kinds of crazy things out there in the marsh. It’s just good to get out there and do it, but always, too, just to sort of think about what’s around you and the environment around you and how you can help it. This is just one way people can do that, but I think it opens their eyes to think about, ‘Wow, we can help.'”

Due to traffic concerns, collectors are asked not to pick up trash along U.S. Route 1, Woodard said.

“Route 1 is pretty bad but we ask people not to (pick up trash) because of the traffic,” she said. “We work with the Department of Transportation and shut down one side and then clean that side and then shut down the other. We have a crew that does it every year and they know how to do it. They’re trained and they’re safe.”

Volunteers should be safe when collecting trash along other roadsides as well, Woodard said.

“We do want to stress that Route 1 is especially bad with traffic going fast, but if anyone’s doing roadsides, they should be careful,” she said. “If they have an orange vest, then it’s a good thing to do — wear an orange vest and just be visible.”

Organizers ask that people use their own judgement when collecting trash, Woodard said. Certain materials, like used needles, could be dangerous to touch.

“Sometimes there’s needles, and sometimes it may just be for diabetes, but you don’t know what that needle was used for so usually with a needle situation we have people call the police, and then the police will come and get it safely,” she said. “If there’s a glove or a mask, just don’t go there. You hate to leave something like that, but you don’t want to be touching things that might be hazardous to your health.”

The event is a collective project that includes the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center, Friends of Scarborough Marsh, Eastern Trail Alliance and the Town of Scarborough, said the Maine Audubon.

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