Earth Week is just a couple of weeks away and environmental groups all along the Detroit River are gearing up for a variety of events. Several organizations that are a part of the Detroit River Coalition are hosting cleanup opportunities for the public beginning April 17, and the Belle Isle Conservancy is hosting its annual Belle Isle Spring Cleanup event on Saturday, April 24.
Genevieve Nowak is the Director of Environmental Initiatives and Affairs with the Belle Isle Conservancy. She says this year’s cleanup has new COVID-19 safety protocols designed to keep people engaged but safe.
“This year we have been focused on creating a pandemic-friendly safe outdoor space,” says Nowak of her work in organizing the cleanup at Belle Isle on April 24.
Nowak says the spring cleanup of 2019 attracted more than 1,400 people. She explains that a newly implemented preregistration system will assign people to one of 10 sites on the island. She says this is the first year that the group is asking all volunteers to preregister and sign a waiver. Nowak says the hope is that through greater planning up front, volunteers will be spread more throughout the park thus avoiding creating a concentrated group of people amid the pandemic.
As far as the history of the cleanup at Belle Isle, Nowak says it’s been happening at the beloved Detroit park since the 1970s. The event began with community members showing up each spring to help park staff prepare it for the upcoming season. ”In the early years it was just a handful of people who lived in the neighborhood who came out and took on different projects they identified for themselves as what was needed … and then as [environmental] groups started to evolve for in the park they started to really formalize the event,” says Nowak, who adds that the groups added the traditional hot dog lunch, which up until last year, was a tasty tradition that capped off the Belle Isle Spring Cleanup Day each year.