Fifth Annual Main-Dempster Earth Day Clean-Up brings out residents despite rain


Cole Reynolds/The Daily Northwestern

People gathered Saturday to clean streets and parks along the Main-Dempster Mile for its fifth annual Earth Day clean up.

Cole Reynolds, Assistant City Editor

April showers might bring May flowers. But they don’t usually bring many volunteers to an outdoor trash pickup.

Nevertheless, around 90 people braved Saturday’s rainy skies and blustery wind to participate in the Main-Dempster Mile’s fifth Earth Day Neighborhood Clean-Up. Many said they saw the opportunity as a way to invest in their community.

Sign-ups for the trash pickup have grown by about 30% every year, according to Main-Dempster Mile Executive Director Katherine Gotsick, who organizes the event. This year was no different, with 230 people signing up, Gotsick said.

Ellie Shevick picked up trash hiding in the long grass alongside the CTA tracks as rain sprinkled down. She came with her husband and two kids — one of them dubbing themself the “queen of nature.”

In just over 15 minutes of cleaning, she said her family picked up almost a quarter of a trash bag worth of garbage.

“If you look close, it’s remarkable how much garbage there is,” Shevick said.

Shevick, who sits on the Parks and Recreation Board, said preserving green spaces in Evanston matters to parents like her.

The trash pickup, she said, not only beautifies the community in the short term, but also serves as an investment in the city.

“I just want Evanston to be a clean place for my kids to play — to grow up,” Shevick said.

Members of Evanston Pride are now regulars at the trash pickup, cleaning up the area around St. Paul Park, which the advocacy nonprofit adopted in 2022. Pride board members Sandie Elliott and Kurt Condra said it was important to remove the actual pieces of trash, but crucial to just be present in the community.

“(It is about) making this a beautiful city not only physically but also in its energy,” Condra said.

As a record number of state bills targets LGTBQ+ people, Elliott and Condra said the visibility of the LGTBQ+ community everywhere is even more important. The trash pickup was a small but necessary way to do that, they said.

Last year, people living in the apartments across the street from St. Paul’s Park stood out on their balconies and shouted thank-yous from their windows as Evanston Pride cleaned the park, Elliot said. She said those everyday connections remind the broader community of LGBTQ+ needs.

“It felt good to be recognized,” Elliott said as she picked up a stray Pokémon card. “We’re all in this together.”

Even before the clean-up efforts, Gotsick said the Main-Dempster Mile was relatively clean. She said she couldn’t remember seeing much garbage on the sidewalks as she rode to work on Saturday, fearing that there wouldn’t be enough trash to go around for the pick-up.

The area needing the most cleaning, she said, was an alley next to the CTA tracks near the Main station, which a contingent from NU’s Delta Delta Delta sorority helped clean. Members shoveled wet, matted heaps of leaves and discarded bottles into bags for composting.

Gotsick said this year produced the “most interesting” finds of all the clean-ups, when somebody found a stack of $50 counterfeit bills near Dempster Street. But the sorority wasn’t that lucky.

“I’ve found a lot of lottery tickets,” Weinberg freshman Julia Marshall said. “They’re all losers though.”

Initially, Gotsick said she only thought a quarter of the 230 volunteers who signed up would come. She even gave participants the option of picking up trash on their own time during a sunnier day later this week.

But just 45 minutes into the event, she said all of her trash pickup routes were filled. She ended up having to make up new ones just for people to participate.

“I feel like this is a triumph for a cold and rainy day,” Gotsick said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @charcole27

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