ALPAR battles summer garbage
A small group of young people is helping Seward battle the trash invasion this summer. ALPAR, a grant-funded program run by the City of Seward Parks and Recreation Department, employs local teens at minimum wage for four hours every summer weekday to clean up area beaches, parks, campgrounds and streets. These youngsters don bright neon-lime florescent vests, and with their grabbers and bright yellow bags cover an average of 5-6 miles per day. Some days they walk as much as 8 miles, and they can fill as many as 12-16 bags. They recycle the glass and the aluminum cans, but throw the rest of the garbage away.
At 8 a.m. on a sunny Monday morning (July 16) the group gathers at the Parks and Recreation shack at the waterfront to pick up their gear and begin their journey across the new Scheffler Creek Bridge. They are accompanied by ALPAR supervisor Pete Ferkinoff and Lindsey VonBorstel, who is worker Andrew Hughes’ aide, employed by SeaView Community Services. The other ALPAR workers include Triston Boor, Michaela Headley, Alice Pfeiffenberger and Maddie Rae.
They first head toward the north harbor beach front and small boat harbor parking areas. They would return later along the roadway, passing the rock ball field. This is their route each Monday as it hits the busiest camping areas, and weekend tourists always leave plenty of garbage behind, said Ferkinoff. But the ALPAR group cleans up almost everywhere Seward; the north dock to the airstrip, the top of Jefferson Street, behind the hospital to the Lowell Canyon waterfall. They pick up trash along stream beds, Forest Acres and Two Lakes Park.
Ferkinoff and VonBorstel carry bags and help, too. The group spends some time grabbing up small circular cardboard disks left behind on the spit area from the 4th of July fireworks display. There are so many that after a while Ferkinoff pushes the group to continue, saying they can pick up more of them next time. Andrew stops and points out to VonBorstel the animal shape that he sees in some nearby clouds. Later, Ferkinoff makes sure that everyone can make out the duck shape that the snow forms every year on a ridge of Mount Alice, directly across Resurrection Bay.
This sunshine makes this a pleasant workday, but they also work on wet, rainy days. On one particular miserable day, Kenai Fjords Tours employees saw the ALPAR group shivering together in a city parking lot on their break, and offered them to come inside their van to warm up. The warmth was so cozy that a few of them nearly fell asleep in there.
A perk of the job is finding interesting treasures, and sometimes change. Andrew found a red necktie, which he wore for a couple of days. He also found a baby binky, a blanket, and several different types of balls. Michaela found a soccer ball, and a beach ball, which she kept, but she gave a hammer she found to Triston. The group also recorded finding a kite, a hatchet, socks, shoes, a brassiere, a lawn chair, small stuffed animals, socket wrench, light fixture, marble, loaf of bread and a glass frog.
The group witnesses first-hand the disrespect with which the adults around them treat their hometown, and soil a scenic environment dominated by snow capped mountains and waterfront beaches that front glimmering Resurrection Bay. They especially don’t appreciate the endless supply of cigarette butts they encounter on the ground or in decorative planters, or the overflowing trash cans and dumpsters, or the places where people leave their trash near the dumpsters rather than in them, inviting hoards of ravens to investigate and create additional havoc.
Sometimes they witness the disrespect with which people treat them, too. It’s hurtful, and makes them angry when they describe things that sometimes happen, such as when a man passing them threw his lighted cigarette out of the vehicle window in their direction, and shouted for them to come pick it up. But other people they encounter thank them for cleaning up the town.