RACINE — The land that runs along the 5-mile northern stretch of the Racine County Bikepath isn’t exactly the most scenic strip of land in the state.
Tucked between rails of the Union Pacific Railroad and the gravel path that constitutes the trail, the overgrown brush has long been a favored spot to shove all manner of trash.
Fifth District Alderman Melissa Kaprellian-Becker knows all too well about the sometimes blighted condition of the trail.
That’s why when the Greater Racine in Bloom organizer went looking for a major cleanup project for this year’s America in Bloom competition, it didn’t take her long to make a decision.
Although she had received complaints about the trail before, she really settled on making it a project after seeing what it looked like in the winter with the lack of leaves exposing all the places where people had stuffed their trash.
“Oh my gosh, it was horrible. There were tires, and people’s clothing, and just garbage,” she said.
Now, after weeks of networking with railroad and We Energies brass, both who have easements on the land, Greater Racine in Bloom has organized a massive cleanup of the trail and Union Pacific staff will be among those pitching in.
Slated to take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 20, the cleanup will focus on the 1.5-mile stretch of the path that runs through the City of Racine, from Layard Avenue to 3 Mile Road.
Volunteers will meet up at the Bike Path entrance on Layard Avenue just west of Douglas Avenue, and spend the day picking up trash and working to beat back invasive plants like buckthorn and honeysuckle bushes. Lunch, beverages, T-shirts and supplies will be provided by Greater Racine in Bloom, a local organization participating in the America in Bloom national campaign and contest to promote city and county beautification and community involvement.
The group will show off the hard work of volunteers to the America in Bloom judges who will be touring the area July 18-19.
Mark Davis, spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad, said Friday that the railroad knew it wanted to be a part of the project as soon as they started talking about it with Kaprellian-Becker.
Illegal dumping and littering in the area is a concern for them as well, Davis said, so when they heard about the cleanup project they decided to help.
In addition to providing employees to help with the equipment and manpower, they will also be providing a flagger to make sure volunteers working near the tracks are safe from trains.
“It (is) a good opportunity for our maintenance employees to give back and help the community,” he said.
How to Volunteer
What: Racine County Bikepath Cleanup
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 20
Where: Meet at the bike path entrance on Layard Avenue just west of Douglas Avenue.
More information: For questions or to sign up, contact Melissa Kaprelian-Becker at (262) 939-8679 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you get there: A table will be set up for you to sign waivers and receive materials needed.
What’s provided: T-shirt, gloves, bug spray, bags, beverages and lunch.
What to be prepared for: Prickly and/or wet plants and terrain, garbage.
What to wear: Long pants, boots and long sleeves. Hats and other protective gear are encouraged as well.
What to bring: Rubber boots, rubber gloves, personal tools you want to use, i.e. loppers, rakes, trash grabbers, etc.