By Jamie Norton
Volunteer groups and individuals are invited to participate in the 11th annual Canal Clean Sweep, the spring cleaning of the state canal system and Canalway Trail, on April 22-24.
More than 100 events have been scheduled across the 524-mile-long canal system, providing nearly unlimited opportunities for residents to give back to their local community and to show pride in a unique cultural and recreational resource.
Canal Clean Sweep is also a great way to celebrate Earth Day, and volunteer efforts will help to prepare the canals for the 192nd consecutive navigation season, scheduled to begin May 1, weather permitting.
In Whitehall, the Champlain Canal Clean Sweep is scheduled for Thursday, April 21, at 10 a.m. Whitehall High School students will be bused around Whitehall to pick up garbage and wind up at the Skenesborough Harbor Park pavilion, where they will join other volunteers for a grilled hot dog lunch.
The event is open to the public, and other volunteers can meet at the pavilion at 10 a.m. that day to pick up garbage around the Canal Harbor Park area. Gloves and bags will be provided.
“We always want volunteers,” said village Trustee Marge Mohn. “The cleaner we keep Whitehall, the better. Whitehall is a small place, and it should be easy to keep it the best it can be. We want it to be better and better and prettier and prettier.”
Mohn is helping to organize the local event, which is sponsored by Stewart’s Shops and supported by both the village and town of Whitehall, as well as the school.
“We all have to work together, and if we all work together and get Whitehall the best it can be, that’s very important,” Mohn said. “All ideas are appreciate. The more charming (Whitehall) is, the better.”
“It’s so important for small communities that have been impacted by economic down times to come together and be appreciative of the beautiful area that we live in and the properties that we have,” interim high school Principal Mark Doody said. “There’s so much history… It’s one of the unique things of being from a community like Whitehall.”
The village and town also appreciate not only the help the high school students give, but the lessons they will learn while doing so.
“They’re a tremendous help, and I find that the high school has become more and more community-oriented,” Mohn said. “It teaches them that when they throw out their garbage, now they’re going to have to clean it up. It’s really important for them to learn (to) take pride in their community.”
“Whenever there’s an opportunity for students to do volunteer work in the community, it’s very positive,” Doody said. “We have a lot of students who are very civic-minded and a lot of staff members, and I think they’re really looking forward to it. The canal is a very important resource.”
Doody said about 20 juniors and seniors from the high school will participate in the clean-up efforts.
“One of our goals is to give the students every opportunity to learn about their heritage,” Doody said. “It’s important that people have an appreciation of where they come from and take pride in it. And from my observation, (Whitehall) kids do.”
Mohn said volunteers from the community don’t have to sign up ahead of time – just show up ready to help out that day. Stewart’s will provide a grilled hot dog lunch for volunteers and student participants. Mayor Ken Bartholomew and other village trustees usually do the cooking.
Other volunteer opportunities are available in other areas later that week as well. Those interested in volunteering elsewhere should visit www.ptny.org/events/canal-clean-sweep and use the Event Finder Map to locate other clean-up events throughout the state. Local organizers provide necessary tools and supplies, as well as complimentary T-shirts as supplies allow.
For more information on the 11th annual Canal Clean Sweep, to register an event or to find an event to participate in, visit www.ptny.org/events/canal-clean-sweep or contact James Meerdink of Parks & Trails New York at (518) 434-1583 or [email protected]
Like them on Facebook at NYS Canal Corporation.