By LaKeshia Knarr
BALD EAGLE TOWNSHIP – Trawling through the creeks and riverbanks of Clinton County last Saturday were 63 dedicated volunteers, one of them working on a special assignment.
Brandon Wenker, 17, is volunteering with Clinton County CleanScapes for his senior project. The teen, entering his senior year at Central Mountain High School, is the son of Dave and Michele Wenker of Mill Hall. He had spent months looking for the right volunteer opportunity when a family friend helped him find the right choice.
CleanScapes is a nonprofit that helps citizens of Clinton and Lycoming counties clean up waterways and landscapes, improving habitats and recreational resources, and Brandon has been assisting with planned cleanup events this year.
The goal of last Saturday’s cleanup was to pull tires from Bald Eagle Creek. Prior to the event, organizers were unsure how many tires to expect, as waters were murky from rainfall and previously sighted tires were swept elsewhere. Groups were established: land support, waders, pickup truck drivers and scuba divers. By 10 a.m. the volunteers hit the water and began pulling submerged tires, and other debris, from the creek bed. Roughly two hours later, the creek was 107 tires lighter.
For Brandon, volunteering with CleanScapes was a no-brainer.
“I just like being outside,” he explained to therecord-online.com. “That’s one reason I wanted to do this.”
Beyond finding more time outside, he’s learned a lot too.
“I learned that there is an issue with the garbage and stuff that’s polluting the waterways,” Brandon said. “I also learned that if people come out and help it doesn’t take as long to clean up and it’s more fun. It feels nice to see that people in the community want to come out and clean up these areas.”
Now, Brandon wants others to consider taking an active role.
“If you see something, clean it up,” he said, encouraging others to get involved with CleanScapes. “It feels great seeing everything being done.”
The organized cleanup of Bald Eagle Creek on July 22 was the second in which Brandon has been a key helper. On April 8, he participated in his first cleanup at Young Woman’s Creek in Chapman Township. There, a crew of 54 volunteers cleared 1.2 tons of debris from the riverbank in just about two hours.
Brandon is looking forward to another cleanup this September that had originally had been planned for earlier this spring but was postponed due to weather. That cleanup will focus on a section of the Rail Trail off of Youngdale Road in Castanea Township.
Aside from helping during the cleanup portion of the events, Brandon arrives early to assist with set up before other volunteers arrive and also helps take down the staging areas. Participants are treated to lunch after each cleanup event.
According to CleanScapes Director Elisabeth Lynch McCoy, Brandon is the fifth senior to seek out the nonprofit to fulfill senior project requirements.
“He has been one of the top two students we’ve ever worked with. He’s an extremely flexible, energetic and community-minded young man and it’s been a privilege to work with him,” said Lynch McCoy, adding, “We look forward to working with other seniors who want to participate.”
CleanScapes is an affiliated member of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. Since 2000, the organization has helped plan over 110 cleanup events, coordinating more than 4,033 volunteers, and removing over 1,199 tons of debris from the landscapes and waterways.
Details about upcoming events can be found by following the CCC at facebook.com/ClintonCountyCleanScapes.