FRANKLIN >> In many southern Chester County communities, Earth Day ranks right up there in importance with Christmas, birthdays and Halloween. This year, it was no exception.
In Franklin Township, where country roads accumulate litter throughout the year, more than 30 people showed up at the municipal building bright and early on Saturday to get bags, gloves, bright vests and protective goggles before hitting the highways. By 9:30 a.m., it had started to sprinkle, but that was no deterrent to the trash pickers.
“It’s fine. In fact it feels pretty good,” one of the Avon Grove High School National Honor Society members along Pennock’s Bridge Road said.
This year, as in the previous three, Township Supervisors Chairman John Auerbach greeted his volunteers at the township building and sent them on their way. The protective glasses were a new feature of the equipment given out this year.
“We did it because they could get hit in the eye with low hanging branches,” Auerbach said.
He also warned them not to pick up tires or anything that looked dangerous like hypodermic needles. They were instructed to mark those items with an orange flag, and the road crew would attend to them later.
Many of the folks formed groups with neighbors and cleaned up the areas near their home. A group of six along Flint Hill Road filled about three or four bags each with roadside trash from Route 841 to the edge of the township along Paradocx Vineyard and Schmidt’s Tree Farm. “This is one of the times of the years when we get together and catch up with our neighbors,” township supervisor Penny Schenk said.
The volunteers were fascinated by the objects that they found. For most, it was a discovery of the favorite brand of beer the litterers had left.
But there was more.
The folks on Flint Hill Road found a toilet seat, windshield wipers, garbage can wheels, water bottles and construction material. They recalled one year when they found a refrigerator.
Avon Grove High School National Honor Society members Katie Lengel, Mackenzie VanSciver, Erin Sorg and Camryn Laterza encountered a deer carcass, condom wrappers, lots of beer cans and water bottles.
Asked what they intended to do later in the day, they agreed the first thing on the list would be to take a shower.
The procedure was this: The volunteers picked up the trash, put it in plastic bags and left it beside the road. Later in the day, volunteers with pickup trucks gathered it and took it to the landfill in Londonderry.
Auerbach said the total number of tires found on Saturday was 27. Before the landfill can accept them, the they must be cleaned up, he said, because he was told they process the rubber almost as soon as it is brought in.
Franklin Township leadership and residents are quite adamant about keeping the roadsides clear. Even now as the amount picked up diminishes yearly, Auerbach said it is because the preceding year was so successful.
Meanwhile, throughout the year, the road crew keeps their eyes open for any dumping incidents. In recent years, it was discovered that a huge load of trash and building materials were dumped on an unpaved road. Auerbach said they searched through it and found an invoice with a name. When they confronted the owner of the materials, he told them a contractor had hauled the stuff from his garage.
Officials called the contractor and threatened legal action.
“There next day, it was all cleaned up,” Auerbach said.
The first Earth Day occurred on 1970 during years of growing social conscience and activism among college students and other young people. Some of that awareness has been credited to the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring,” which raised awareness of pollution and how it was harming the planet.