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If you were passing by the canal path in downtown and along Fall Hill Avenue on Wednesday morning, March 20, 2019, you may have spotted the City of Fredericksburg’s newest team initiative. It was the launch of the City Team Canal Spring Cleanup. In honor of the first day of spring, twenty-five city staff members from eight different city departments joined together to clean the two-mile stretch of the canal from the site of the former Embrey Dam to Princess Anne Street. Half of the team walked the path carrying trash bags and litter grabbers, while the other half of the team climbed into city-owned canoes and kayaks and cleaned the waterway.
In what might seem like an unusual way to celebrate spring, this crew was excited and upbeat about the challenge of gathering more than 50 bags of trash and debris from along the canal weighing a total of nearly 1,000 pounds. “What we accomplished today was a major impact along this canal,” said Dave King, Director of Public Works. Among the items they found were an old tire, construction debris, lightbulbs, a brake drum, tennis racket, shoes, clothes, and a lot of plastic straws, cups and water bottles and even a bicycle.
Planning for this event began about a month earlier, as an idea suggested by Thomas Barnes, Park Maintenance Worker with the Parks, Recreation and Events Department. “The canal path cleanup is part of my regular work routine. And I noticed that over the winter litter began to pile up. I suggested that we cleanup as a team now before the spring vegetation started to grow. It just seemed like the ideal time to make this happen,” said Barnes.
Barnes’ supervisor, Aaron Simmons, Superintendent of Parks and Maintenance, encouraged the idea as soon as it was brought to him. Simmons stated, “We’ve been training our crew on our new City Values, and when Thomas suggested the idea of a team cleanup, it was a great fit for the goals we have outlined for our organization. Essential Engagement is our value that states, ‘leadership is everyone’s responsibility’ and Unwavering Stewardship is our value that ‘entrusts all our employees with wisely managing the City’s resources.’
In addition to the parks and public works crews, fellow staff from Police, Fire, City Attorney’s office, City Manager’s office, Economic Development and Social Services departments joined in the cleanup. “This truly was a team effort. We made the offer to our employees and within a day we had all the help we were seeking. Everyone who came out this morning asked to be here, and that’s a great feeling!” said Jane Shelhorse, Director of Parks, Recreation and Events.
The interdepartmental team plans on doing at least another clean-up of this type next fall, and perhaps another in the summer if the need arises. These kinds of events create inter-departmental comradery and provides a valuable service to our community, while also supporting City Council’s objective for making Fredericksburg a green, clean environment. The City Manager’s Recommended Budget for FY 2020 also includes a request for a new position (“liter liaison”) in Public Works to support additional litter cleanup efforts as well as other trash responsibilities.