COLORADO SPRINGS — School is back in session for many college students, and for some local students, they're learning how to be good stewards of the environment by picking up trash around our waterways.
It's all part of orientation for freshman at Colorado College, and despite how hot it was on Wednesday afternoon in Southern Colorado, dozens of students spent the day picking up trash on the open spaces and trails and around the creek at America the Beautiful Park.
"We've been out here for about two hours now, we've been picking up a lot of needles, a lot of clothing, a lot of blankets, food wrappers," said Darby Shaw, one of the nearly 300 students volunteering for the three-day cleanup.
Darby mentioned it's also a chance to give back to the new community she now lives in.
"You realize every bit of community service, no matter how small it may seem, just picking up plastic like that, can really change things," said Darby.
During the three-day cleanup, students will cover an eight-mile stretch of Fountain Creek between Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. It's a partnership between the two cities and the college.
"There are a lot of storm drains around us and around the park that end up in Fountain Creek. This is a great example to show the students, what's on the land, ends up in the water," said Jerry Cordova, a storm water specialist for the city of Colorado Springs. "Here in the Pikes Peak region, this neighborhood is literally connected to the Gulf of Mexico. Whenever the students picked up on land, reduces what ends up in the Gulf of Mexico."
Cordova said it's the largest clean-up event the city has promoted since the pandemic began, and it's already having a direct impact.
"We've made such a surprising amount of headway in it, just today. I hope we make a little bit of a difference," said Lucy Lyman, another student at Colorado College.
For Shaw,it's also a chance to build college and community spirit with some of her new classmates.
"I feel so lucky to be a part of this community, and I think it's the least I can to do to chip in," said Darby. We're so lucky to be welcomed into this city an welcomed into this state, so we should all be doing something like this."
Rachael Abler, the assistant director for Colorado College's outdoor education program, said this is the first year the college has partnered with the two cities for a clean-up effort. Part of the orientation is also having students tour downtown Colorado Springs and participate in an adventure hike day to explore local parks.
"We have students coming from all over the country all over the world to Colorado Springs to be their home for the next four our five years, and we really want them to have ownership of the space that they call their backyard, and call their home," said Abler.
On Thursday, students will be cleaning up areas along Midland Trail. On Friday, they'll be in Manitou Springs near Rainbow Falls. Cordova said he expects students will be able to pick up about four tons of trash during the effort. Students will be volunteering from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The city of Colorado Springs hoping to have big more community clean-ups the upcoming weeks, including the annual Creek Week, which is happening at the end of September and running through the beginning of October.
In 2019, the city hosted nearly 100 clean-up events, with about 3,000 volunteers. They picked up 75,000 pounds of trash.