Maggie Kemmerer offers insights to her first cleanup experience

[Editor’s Note: Margaret Kemmerer joined Clinton County CleanScapes for a multi-site cleanup in Piatt, Porter and Watson Townships in Lycoming County on April 28, 2018. In this piece, Kemmerer shares details about her experience participating in her first-ever illegal dumpsite cleanup with CleanScapes.]

Never in my life would I have thought that I could enjoy three hours of picking up trash… but this past Saturday I did just that. 

The experienced CleanScapes volunteers were like thoroughbred horses at the gate ready for the bell.

Elisabeth [CleanScapes Project Director] gave us our plan of action and we 30+ volunteers fanned out on the creek side of a little country road in Jersey Shore armed with tick spray, plastic bags and enthusiasm.

Hiking the creek valley was hard work – balancing on slippery rocks hidden beneath wet leaves, lifting bags which so quickly became too heavy to carry.  The bank was steep and especially challenging as the ground was soft.

We navigated our way up and down the slope, pulling out decades-old bottles, cans, bicycle handle bars, 103 rotting tires full of muddy water, car hoods, lawn mower frames, refrigerators, and so on.

The tires were too awkward to manage for our “bucket-brigade” – so we used a rope and leveraged the weight by looping the rope around a pole at the roadside and pulling it down the hill, five or six people deep. Using gravity and torque to our advantage, the tires more easily bumped and slipped their way up to the folks waiting to load them onto the truck.

The people worked hard.  I chatted with those around me enjoying the physical work-out, the mission, the spirit.

Many years before moving to Central Pennsylvania, I lived in Oklahoma for 22 years.  Ten of those years my husband and I shared a boundary line with a public park which was adjacent to a gorgeous body of water: Lake Oologah… I love the Native American name.  I became the sole self-appointed trash collector for the park.  It was a visual extension of our land and I just could not tolerate the blemish of trash to such pretty, sparkling water and shore.

Picking up beer bottles last Saturday recalled my ire with such careless actions of the people out west.  To me, people who drop trash are exhibiting a lack of personal and community respect. Littering harms my world, it harms your world, and it harms the world for animals and nature.

Our Saturday morning cleanup ended with a delicious spread of yummy foods:  fruits/vegies, the best pizza I have ever eaten from Pizza 2 Go (my new favorite pizza haunt) and pastries from Nan’s Donuts, which were like putting my mouth around a cloud: so soft, and baked by an Amish woman in her nearby kitchen.

Overall, my first cleanup was a powerful experience. And now, I look forward to the next CleanScapes event!!

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Margaret Wright Kemmerer is an artist, musician and lover of all things outdoors. Residing in an historic log home in Lycoming County, Kemmerer has a deep appreciation for the natural environment and much of her artwork depicts Central Pennsylvania landscapes, equine scenes and other wildlife. Learn more about Kemmerer at

5891 FCFP Grant Recipient Seal rev0 (2017)Financial support for the April 28, 2018, CleanScapes cleanup event in Piatt, Porter and Watson Townships (Lycoming County) was provided by the Roscoe M. & Edith M. Wolf Fund at the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania.

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