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Hundreds of Orillians pitch in to help clean up the community

'Nothing looks really nice with garbage,' says youngster who joined the city's annual campaign

More than 1,500 Orillians pitched in to help clean up their city during the week dedicated to the task.

The 19th annual Orillia Pitch-in Week, which was held three weeks after its original date of April 21, saw hundreds of volunteers participate in today’s wrap-up event as they went through various parts of the city while picking up trash.

“It’s socially important for the boys and us to do this,” said Sarah Kneebone, of Orillia. “It’s something to do to make sure the waste doesn’t end up in the water or in the gardens.”

She and her husband brought their two sons to the Veteran’s Park Pitch-in headquarters by the waterfront to take part in the clean-up.

The kids seemed happy to be spending their Saturday morning helping out.

“It’s good for the environment,” said Locklan Kneebone, 7, who participated in the community clean-up with his nine-year-old brother. “Nothing looks really nice with garbage.”

The youngster said it made him feel “pretty nice” doing this for the city and that he would tell his friends to give it a shot next year.

“Orillia has nice trails and parks and places to go,” said Rob Kneebone. “And you don’t want it to be nasty.”

The lesson he wants his kids to learn, he said, is that if they’re using the amenities in the city, they should make sure they have a role to play in keeping them clean.

Bob Bowles initiated the event as a trail clean-up program almost two decades ago. Eventually, the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) took up the spring clean-up to turn it into a city-wide event.

“Everything gets clean before the grass comes out,” said Bowles, a local naturalist. “I think we can get people to see that we’ve got the whole city cleaned up and that we can keep it that way through summer.”

If we don’t clean up our parks, trails and streets, he said, eventually it (garbage) accumulates.

“We’ve got a real threat to the environment,” said Bowles, a member of the EAC, “not only to us humans, but also to animals.”

Throughout the week preceding Saturday's big event, school groups were out cleaning up various areas around the city, he said.

Others, including church groups, service clubs and community members, also participated in the weekend clean-up, said Bowles.

Each participant is given gloves, two plastic bags - one for collecting garbage and another for recycling - and reusable water bottles to keep them hydrated as they collect trash, he said.

And it’s not just about cleaning up one week of the year, said Bowles. I’s about educating people about the effects of the materials they use on the health of the world.

“We need to become aware of what we’re using,” said Bowles. “We want to use as little plastic as we can. We need to cut down on paper and eliminate straws completely.”

Despite the cancellation of the original event due to winter weather, Tyler Hunt, a member of the EAC, noted a large number of people still showed up to participate in this annual event.

Over 300 bags were collected and brought in today, he said. That adds up to approximately four truckloads of garbage. A final number of truckloads and bags is added up later, added Hunt.