Volunteers make a real difference

Participants spruce up several Vancouver parks

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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Volunteers picked up 15 pounds of cigarette butts and planted 4,300 trees and bushes Saturday morning during Make a Difference Day festivities in Vancouver, officials said.

Also on Make a Difference Day, 35 volunteers from the Vancouver Police Department’s Neighbors On Watch program patrolled the city as part of a coordinated crime prevention program.

Make a Difference Day is an annual, nationwide event dedicated to helping others on the fourth Saturday of October. Several Vancouver and Clark County public entities held events to celebrate the occasion.

Around 50 participants picked up cigarette butts at Esther Short, Leverich and David Douglas parks, as well as Vancouver Lake, during a two-hour period.

“It was actually disgusting to see what they came back with,” said Karen Trout, the volunteer coordinator for Clark County Public Works.

Trout and Michelle Simpson, volunteer coordinator for the city of Vancouver, teamed up to coordinate the event.

The reason volunteers found so many cigarette butts, Trout reasoned, was that most people do not realize it takes 10 years for them to biodegrade; the cottony-looking filters contain plastic.

“A lot of people who wouldn’t litter flick cigarettes on the ground,” she said. Once there, they pose risks to children, animals and the environment, she added.

Dry weather aided participants across the city in their Make a Difference Day pursuits, said Gary Bock, executive director of the Vancouver Watersheds Alliance.

The Vancouver Watersheds Alliance and city of Vancouver’s Public Works Department combined to hold a tree-planting for the Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway at Leverich Park. The event had 119 participants, Bock said.

The 4,300 trees and shrubs planted Saturday will reduce erosion near the creek, filter water as it heads toward the creek and shade the creek, Bock said. Shade for the creek is especially important because trout and salmon like cool water, he added.

Volunteers planted Douglas fir and western red cedar, ninebark shrubs and roses, among others.

The tree-planting operation was scheduled to last from 8:30 to 1 p.m. Volunteers finished an hour early.

“When the weather is nice, people plant trees twice as fast,” Bock said.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; ray.legendre@columbian.com.