A buzz of excitement was in the air and we hadn’t even begun. It was nearing 9 a.m. and as groups of people arrived, not a single person was complaining about being out and about so early on a Saturday. As the crowd grew, so did the excitement! We all gathered along Shoal Creek ready for Keep Austin Beautiful Clean Sweep 2013.
Everyone showed up for various reasons but with one common goal, to make Austin a more beautiful place. The Shoal Creek site was only one out of 134 focus locations around Austin that day where volunteers were gathering to help clean up and beautify our city. The largest representation from my site was members of the Buddhist Tzu-Chi Foundation, but we also had representation from the UT Marine Science Club, the UT National Honor Society, Austin Stone Church, and more, including many individuals who just wanted to assist in the cause. From asking around, I discovered many of the volunteers participate in cleanups on a regular basis, although some of the people gathered had only recently moved to the area and desired to get involved in the community.
As everyone signed in David, our site leader, let us know what our role was. We were to clean up two main sites along Shoal Creek: an abandoned illegal dumpsite and an area filled with flood debris. Everyone in our group immediately grabbed tools, gloves, and trash bags and headed down and over the creek eager to begin. I began my cleaning at the illegal dumpsite. After traipsing through the woods for just a few minutes, it was very clear where people had setup temporary living quarters. Shopping carts, crates, abandoned tents, lawn chairs, mattresses, pots, pans, bottles, and just general trash was everywhere. To me and everyone else it was so surprising to see the quantity of trash that was just sitting out there in the woods! I managed to fill up the shopping cart with some of the larger trash items and as soon as it was full two boys from the Tzu-Chi Foundation immediately jumped on it and began the difficult task of navigating the shopping cart through the woods and over the creek to the trash trailer. It was exciting to see how much fun the boys had while making a difference! Many members of the Tzu-Chi Foundation brought their families so there were people helping out from all ages! After a while, I headed over to the flood debris site to see how the other half of the group was doing.
My goodness, this was quite a task! There were very large metal barrels and other large items buried in the ground from a flood that occurred in 1981! One group of girls from UT’s Marine Science Club spent the majority of the morning digging amongst poison ivy – thankfully protected with poison ivy block – to uncover the mystery metal item, which turned out to be a furnace! After uncovering and removing the surprise furnace, a tricycle was found beneath it. It was unbelievable to all of us that these items could be traced to being in the ground for over 30 years!
As it approached 11:00, the pile of trash at the collection area was appalling, yet exhilarating. We all left the site with a huge rush of adrenaline to congregate at Fiesta Gardens Park for the after-party. At the party, clean-up volunteers from different sites exchanged stories about the unique items that they found and how cool it was to clean their specific areas while making such visible improvements. Every single person at the after-party smiled and enjoyed their free lunch to the tunes of the Dead Music Capital Band, Austin’s finest brass band!