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Taking out the trash at Bidwell Park

Volunteers grabbed cans, glasses, and other recyclable materials out of bags like these. Photo credit: Melissa Herrera

A dump-truck full of trash and several bins full of recyclable items were picked up and sorted Saturday at Hooker Oak Park.

The park was a meeting ground for the community of Chico. A wide range of volunteers including students and families all freed their days to make sure Bidwell stayed clean.

Volunteers grouped together to pick up trash. Photo credit: Melissa Herrera

The 32nd Annual Bidwell Park and Chico Creeks Cleanup, hosted by the Butte Environmental Council (BEC), had around 500 volunteers. People gather their buckets, trash bags and trash pickers at 9 a.m. and spread around the park in search of debris until 12:30 p.m.

“People need ways to feel apart of the community and that they can help,” said the General Manager of BCE, Danielle Baxter. “This event is one way that people can do that. One of the best ways people can do that here in town.”

The goal isn’t to simply pick up trash and throw it in a landfill. After volunteers gather litter from across the park, BEC members sort the trash into separate bins by type: recyclables, glass, plastic, aluminum and scrap metal.

They then wash the items and try to reuse as much as possible.

Sorting Trash
Volunteers sifted through bags to see what was salvageable. Photo credit: Melissa Herrera

Mark Stemen, chair of the BEC, said that whatever is deemed reusable gets donated into the community to places like the Jesus Center. Even used bike tires, scrap metal and other salvageable items get donated to shops around town.

People were advised to wear sunscreen, long pants and closed-toe shoes. Volunteers were taken care of with free coffee, bagels and water to keep them well energized for the busy day ahead.

Recycle Bins
There was a line of recycle bins right behind the trash tent. Photo credit: Melissa Herrera

“It’s our third year doing this and we go to college in separate places but we are both home for the weekend and it’s fun,” said volunteers Elaina and Maya Noble. “We’re with our family and just cleaning up the park because we grew up here. You get to see different parts of the park, you take it on a little bit slower and really appreciate it.”

Sisters Elaina and Maya Noble join their mother in helping clean up Bidwell. Photo credit: Ricardo Tovar

With Chico population now over 100,000, that would make 500 volunteers half a percent of the population. Though the numbers were as strong as they have been in the event’s history, BEC wants to do better in the years to come.

“In future years I’d like to explore the possibility of expanding it to Saturday and Sunday and potentially reaching 1,000 people,” said Baxter. “We’ll reconvene after this event, see what worked, what went well, see what we need to do better next time. I think that will be a good time to talk about expanding the event. See what that would look like for our community and for the locations for a larger-scale cleanup.”

Giant Dumpster
Volunteers discarded the remaining trash into this giant dumpster. Photo credit: Melissa Herrera

After the cleanup volunteers were treated to a free barbeque hosted by the Sierra Nevada Brewery Co. and burgers were given out by Madison Bear Garden. With Sierra Nevada beer also on tap for of age volunteers.

“Incredible amounts of work go into today by a whole team of people,” Baxter said. “Our Board of Directors went out and got sponsorships from folks in the community that want to support a cleanup like this. We have some large corporate sponsors that support us year in and year out: Sierra Nevada Brewery, Clean Cantine, Chico Bag, the City of Chico is a huge partner for this event. Something this large scale is not possible without that level of community support.”

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

Ricardo Tovar can be reached at [email protected] or @rtovarg13 on Twitter.

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