EASTHAMPTON — A group of volunteers came together on a chilly Saturday morning to pick up trash surrounding Lower Mill Pond and parts of the Manhan Rail Trail.
Organized by the Connecticut River Conservancy and the company that puts on the Millpond.Live concert series, Laudable Productions, volunteers cleaned the boat launch at 2 Ferry St. and the area around Millside Park and the rail trail.
Stacey Lennard is the events and special program coordinator at the Connecticut River Conservancy, and said the event was part of the organization’s annual “Source to Sea Cleanup” in the four states that touch the river. That effort occurs at the end of September, but Lennard said trash cleanup programs can be done at any time.
“All the tributaries around here all end up into the Connecticut River, that’s the lay of the land,” Lennard said, saying the pond was connected to the Manhan River, which connects to the Oxbow and, eventually, the Connecticut River.
She said the Connecticut River Conservancy runs public programs to help introduce communities to their environmental work. The organization hopes these programs will help communities see the need for taking care of the river.
“We’re involved in dam re-licensing, restoration, helping to make sure there’s recreational opportunities — you name it. Anything that concerns the river, we try to have a seat at the table,” Lennard said.
Cassandra Holden is a producer at Laudable Productions and said every year, the concert series takes on a different theme, with this year’s being “participation.”
Many public officials in the city come to the concert series to talk with constituents, she said, adding that the mayor’s office has partnered with the production company for a tent during the events.
“It’s a party, it’s a good time and the barrier is a lot lower — it’s a much less formal way to talk to your representatives,” she said. “You can have a beer and talk about the pothole on your street.”
Ryan Guyette was deep into the woods next to the Manhan Rail Trail picking up old cans of Monster Energy Drinks that were covered in dirt.
He said he came because “it was nearby, and in my neighborhood.” His girlfriend, Erica Flood, is running for City Council and thought it was a good way to get out and do something productive in the area.
“The more we clean it up, the more people appreciate it,” he said. “By us doing this little bit, everyone else sees how clean it is, people using the trail, and I think appreciate it more and try to keep it clean.”
Nathan Smith is a senior at Easthampton High School who said he found out about the event from a friend of his at school. He’s also in his school’s chapter of the National Honor Society and saw the event as a way to get community service hours.
“It’s nice to help out the community, to know what your actions do,” he said.
Laura Douglass, who is also running for an at-large City Council seat, tried to carry a few empty plastic bottles and paper bags in a metal trash picker, though she had to pick up some that fell from her grip.
She said she was “pleasantly surprised at the lack of trash” on the rail trail, saying the group had to walk far down from Millside Park to find any.
“If we want to keep them nice, we have to pitch in,” Douglass said of city spaces like the rail trail and its ponds. “It doesn’t happen by magic.”
Michael Connors can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.