Getting trashed on a Saturday morning


Hundreds of volunteers line up to claim their free burger courtesy of Madison Bear Garden. Photo credit: Dan Christian

Dan Christian

Bidwell Park is looking better than ever thanks to a record number of community members who gathered at the One Mile Pool, donating their Saturday morning to cleaning up the park.

Organizers estimated over 500 individuals volunteered to scour the park and pick up trash for the 31st Annual Bidwell Park and Chico Creeks Cleanup.

The event, hosted by the Butte Environmental Council (BEC), invited people from every walk of life, young and old, families and students, long time community members and those just passing through, to show love for the park by collecting and disposing of all the litter they could get their little hands on.

All members of the community were encouraged to participate, including those without a home who currently reside in the park. Those who do reside in the park were also notified ahead of time in order to allow them the opportunity to gather any personal belongings prior to the pick-up.

While picking up trash throughout the park, volunteers were asked not to destroy camps or remove what might be someone’s personal items. Instead, they were asked to either leave the items where they were or move them to a safe location.

“We, as a non-profit, are specifically considerate of the houseless,” said BEC member, Lorilei Angle. “We ask them if they want to help. We don’t tell them to get lost. We specifically want to be inclusive.”

Cleanup began bright and early. Those who had preregistered signed in at 8:30 a.m. sharp. The BEC website encouraged volunteers to wear sun protection, long pants and closed-toe shoes as they searched through the underbrush for trash.

Bottled water and small, improvised first aid kits containing band-aids and alcohol wipes were available free of charge. Commemorative T-shirts were also available for those who preregistered with a few left over for other early birds.

“I have never seen the event this packed.” said event coordinator and Executive Director of BEC, Natalie Carter. “I have never seen the dumpsters this full. We had dumpsters that were overflowing.”

Once collected, all trash was sorted by hand. Recyclable items were separated by type: glass, plastics, aluminum, scrap metal and large items, such as mattresses and sleeping pads.

All salvageable items were cleaned and donated to the Jesus Center. The goal of the cleanup is to end up with as little trash as possible and make sure all useful items make it into the hands of those who need them.

“Not only are we pulling materials out of the creeks, whatever’s usable we’re getting it back into the community,” said Carter. “The only thing that goes to the landfill is what has to go to the landfill.”

To gain a better understanding of the type of trash found in the park, a random sample of the trash brought in by volunteers was set aside and audited. Items such as cigarette butts and food containers were categorized and quantified to assess the part they play in polluting Chico’s parks and creeks.

At 1 p.m. everyone’s hard work and effort was rewarded with a free barbecue hosted by the Sierra Nevada Brewery Co. and burgers provided by the Madison Bear Garden. The afternoon kicked off with a live band as volunteers enjoyed super sized Connect Four and Jenga.

A wide range of Sierra Nevada beers were also available on tap for the adult volunteers in the crowd. The barbecue closed with a raffle where one volunteer got to ride away on a beautiful, brand new hybrid bicycle courtesy of Pullins Cyclery.

For more information on how to help keep Chico clean, contact the Butte Environmental Council at 530-891-6424 or visit

Daniel Christian can be reached at [email protected] or @DanoftheOrion on Twitter.