For Airdronians interested in spending some time outside and helping the community at the same time, Volunteer Airdrie Society is hosting its annual highway clean-up event on May 1.
According to Volunteer Airdrie President Dave Maffitt, the yearly clean-up along the Queen Elizabeth II Highway is part of a province-wide campaign that doles out grant funding to non-profit societies in Alberta for cleaning up the province’s highways.
“It’s a wonderful family volunteering opportunity,” Maffitt said. “We get a lot of families out there and they have a lot of fun, especially with all the little discoveries along the way. There have been some pretty extraordinary things found along the way, as you can imagine. We’ve found wallets and such which were returned to their owners.”
Maffitt said Volunteer Airdrie is seeking at least 40 volunteers to help with the society’s portion of the highway clean-up, which includes both sides of a 15-kilometre stretch from Airdrie’s northern city limits down to the Balzac overpass near CrossIron Mills mall.
He said teams of three or four volunteers will be assigned approximately three kilometres each, and Volunteer Airdrie members will shuttle them to their designated section on the morning of May 1.
“We’ve got 30 kilometres of distance to cover and based on last year’s rule of thumb, [we need] groups of four,” he said. “The four people are ideally side-by-side, sweeping the part of the ditch, walking together 10 to 15 feet apart and scanning their part of the ditch to pick up as they go.”
Volunteer Airdrie has taken part in the highway clean-up for about five years, according to Maffitt. He said the only year the event was cancelled was in 2016, as a result of the wildfires in Fort McMurray. Last year, the clean-up was postponed until September 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event is purposefully held in the spring, as the annual snowmelt reveals how much litter proliferates along the highway over the winter.
“It’s quite something the way a lot of the litter along the highway collects, especially around the overpasses,” he said. “Last year when we did this, we were assigning groups of four volunteers to do three kilometres each – so ideally you want to have 40 volunteers – but we found the groups assigned to the areas near an overpass couldn’t complete the three kilometres because there was so much litter in their areas. It’s quite extraordinary the amount of litter we pick up.”
Those interested in signing up should visit volunteerairdrie.ca and go to the Better Impact section, according to Maffitt. Adversely, they can email [email protected], or call or text 403-993-5034
On the morning of the clean-up, Maffitt said participants should check in at Volunteer Airdrie’s base for the event, which will either be the parking lot of the Calgary Co-op in Sierra Springs by the car wash or the parking lot of the former Boston Pizza across the street. The clean-up will start at 9 a.m. and last for approximately three to four hours.
As a COVID-19 protocol, people who register will have to pass a health check and review the safety rules before taking part in the clean-up, according to Maffitt. He added there’s a requirement for people to complete a Volunteer Airdrie safety orientation beforehand, so he recommends registering at least a few days before May 1.
“It’s an ideal group volunteering activity,” he said. “You’ll get some fresh air and exercise, and you’ll be helping our environment. At the end of the day, we want to keep Airdrie beautiful and this is an important way to help us do that.”