Roadways are cleaner now, thanks to 4-H clubs

Kids who pick up litter are far less likely 
to toss their own trash

Manitoba’s roadways are a lot cleaner this week, thanks to hundreds of young 4-H club members who donned gloves, boots and high-visibility vests and set to work last Saturday morning with supervising parents and adult volunteers to gather up garbage in the ditches.

It’s an ‘ew-yuck’ sort of job, but the young folk taking part in the long-standing 4-H’s tradition didn’t seem to mind at all.

Highway cleanup is an annual end-of-May event, dispatching 4-H’ers to the roadways around their communities to pick up trash such as drink cans and bottles, twine and junk food containers. Young 4-H’ers all wear high-visibility vests and are supervised by their parents and other adult volunteers while cleaning up highways with signage cautioning motorists.

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Parents say the job helps children learn the satisfaction that comes from community service.

“They should be giving back to their community and learning how important that is,” said Wendy Pearson a leader with the 28-member Miami 4-H Activity Club who had helped organize the Saturday morning cleanup in their area.

“Living in a rural community, you really depend on ‘volunteerism.’ I think the kids need to understand that from a young age.”

Plus, kids who pick up litter are far less likely to toss their own trash, she added.

“They’re learning by what they’re picking up here today. Hopefully, it’s going to encourage them not to litter, and maybe they can teach that to other people as well.”

Last year, nearly 900 4-H members from 38 clubs cleaned 484 km of roadsides and ditches, filling 2,147 bags of trash. Recyclable bottles and cans were also delivered to appropriate pickup locations. The province sponsors the yearly event and pays 4-H clubs for each kilometre cleaned. The young people collectively earned $12,775 for their projects in 2014. They also get high praise from provincial ministers. In a news release issued last week Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton called the 4-H Highway Cleanup “an important tradition that keeps Manitoba’s landscapes looking beautiful.”

“Manitoba’s 4-H clubs take pride in their communities and we are pleased to reward them for providing this important public service,” added Agriculture Food and Rural Development Minister Ron Kostyshyn.

Sheryl Bruce, who was picking up roadway trash with her 11-year-old daughter Alyssa on Hwy. 23 west of Miami said she believes it’s important children do this without knowing there’s any sort of direct reward for their efforts. The reward should be taking pride in knowing they helped keep that road clean, she said.

“I think it’s important to take care of the environment. The reward is the satisfaction that they’re helping keep the environment clean,” said Bruce. Her kids hate the sight of litter, and often express disheartenment to see it in the ditch along the road past their farm too, she added.

Last Saturday morning Bruce said they found a lot of garbage where, from the highway, it looked like there was none.

“So far we’ve found a paint roller, a lid from a bin, blown-out tires, junk food, a fender from what was maybe an accident, cigarette packages, and lots and lots of beer cans,” she said, about a half-hour into the job. The beer cans are an especially troubling sight to the rural mom.

“What surprises me the most is the amount, and all different brands,” said Bruce. “That means there’s a lot of people drinking and driving in my area. That to me is a cause for concern.”

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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