Ian Khama Ellansante, a Bates college professor, picks up litter at the PUG pop up garden on Saturday in Lewiston during the city’s first Public Works-hosted litter pickup event. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Despite cold, rainy weather Saturday morning, Lewiston’s first citywide litter cleanup went off without a hitch as about 50 people — from Boy Scouts, to college students to credit union employees — scoured the city for trash.   

Volunteers targeted pedestrian-heavy streets and public parks in downtown Lewiston, such as Kennedy Park, Paradis Park and Lisbon Street. 

Mary Ann Brenchick, director of Lewiston Public Works, said one of her main goals since she was hired last fall has been to improve the city’s image. 

A few years ago, Lewiston received a $20,000 grant to hold an “amnesty day” on which residents could dispose of large, bulky items — which people often leave in yards and on porches — at no cost. However, Brenchick said the program is too expensive to do annually.

Vanessa Williamson, Bates College swimming and diving coach, picks up litter on Bartlett Street in Lewiston as she and her dog, Milo, lead the rest of the swimming team down to a small park. The team members came out together to participate in the Lewiston Public Works Department’s first city litter cleanup day. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Looking for another way to improve the appearance of neighborhoods, Brenchick, who previously worked at an environmental nonprofit that regularly held litter pickup events, thought it seemed natural to bring a pickup event to Lewiston.

While public works staff regularly clean up public areas in Lewiston, she said she hopes that involving the community will encourage people to make a habit of keeping their neighborhoods clean. 

“Litter adds up. When people see it, they throw other things on the ground. When you keep it clean, it’s less likely other people are going to throw things on the ground,” she said.

One of the major sources of litter is bags of trash without dedicated containers, as well as trash bins with no lids. Birds, animals and wind spread trash easily from these sources.  

“People don’t realize that (trash cans without lids are) a litter polluter, because it blows. Even bags outside of the trash can is against our ordinances, but we don’t fine for it,” she said. “We could, and we should start to pick up on doing some of that, but we need to educate first.” 

“It’s your mail with your name on it,” she continued. “We know where some of this trash comes from. Do you want that everywhere? Just put your trash in a trash can with a lid.” 

Cigarette butts are a widespread problem, too. Brenchick said the city’s Public Works leaders are considering how they may be able to upgrade trash cans to include a place for cigarette butt disposal. 

“It’s not just aesthetics,” she said. Litter can impact water quality and clog stormwater drains. And she cited studies showing that cleaner neighborhoods promote healthier lifestyles and community pride. 

“There’s less drugs and violence and all that kind of stuff in an area that’s clean and respected and well-lit. There’s studies that show that, as well as pride in your community. All those things are more cultural, but those are important too. You want to be proud of your city,” Brenchick said.

Saskia Wong-Smith, left, picks up litter on Saturday in an open lot at the corner of Bartlett and Walnut streets in Lewiston. Wong-Smith was one of the members of the Bates College swim team who joined in the effort. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Armed with grabber tools, the event drew an estimated 50 people on Saturday. Faculty, staff and students from Bates formed the largest group with nearly 30 people. Other volunteers were affiliated with Boy Scout Troop 2019 and Community Credit Union. Several family groups also attended.       

Brenchick said some groups were unable to participate on Saturday and will contribute to future cleanup efforts. Craig Saddlemire, cooperative development organizer of Raise-Op, will lead a team of 20 volunteers on Sunday to detail Franklin Pasture Trail, and business owners including the owners of She Doesn’t Like Guthries in Lewiston have said they will participate on Earth Day next Thursday. 

Darby Ray, director of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships at Bates, led the group of Bates students, faculty and staff. 

“Bates is not located in this neighborhood, but we’re not far away, and we certainly feel like we are a part of this community and want to participate in any way we can,” she said.

They covered the PUG (Pop-up Garden) on Bartlett Street and Paradis Park. Most of the students who participated were members of the swimming and diving team. 

“It’s a miserable day, but it’s a great day to be a part of the city of Lewiston, and Bates is really proud to be a part of this community and be able to participate in events like this,” Ray said.

Lewiston Public Works will continue to hold the event twice a year on the third Saturdays of April and October.

Liam Conklin, left, grabs a discarded paper cup on Saturday as members of the Bates College swim team walk down Bartlett street to clean up litter during Lewiston Public Works’ litter pickup event. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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