09 May 2012
Making a Visible Difference: Our Green Up Day Tradition
Who says one person can't make a difference? On Saturday, May 5 – Green Up Day throughout Vermont – spare a minute to offer a silent salute to Robert S. Hancock Jr., the Burlington Free Press reporter who started it all. On his drive to work in Montpelier in March 1969, Hancock became so disgusted with the amount of roadside trash that the spring snow runoff had revealed that he decided to do something about it – immediately.
Arriving in Montpelier, Hancock marched straight into the office of Vermont Governor Deane Davis and asked for his support in organizing a statewide cleanup of the highways. In April 1970, 70,000 Vermonters showed up for the state's first Green Up Day, and by the end of that day, they had filled 4000 truckloads with roadside trash.
More than four decades later, that spring tradition continues this weekend. Locally, volunteers will assemble on the Woodstock Town Hall steps at 8 AM on Saturday. After bags and maps are distributed, the Vermont Standard will record the event with a group photo before everybody heads off to their assigned location.
But this year’s activity has a broader scope than normal. Recently, Governor Shumlin asked Green Up Vermont to partner with the his office in using this statewide tradition on the first Saturday in May to kick off the next phase of the post-Irene cleanup effort. So volunteers will have the choice of working on the familiar roadside pickup assignments or accepting a riverbank cleanup location.
"The town’s post-Irene cleanup still has a long way to go," said Bob Pear, Woodstock coordinator of the Riverbank Team. "But this should be a good start to our ongoing work. We’ll be clearing the river banks, not the stream beds, so volunteers won't need any special clothing or equipment."
For many, this day is part of a long tradition. As in previous years, Green Up Day activities will be overseen by Phil Swanson on behalf of the town. The Woodstock Rotary club will also continue its support, with Harold Mayhew organizing volunteers as he has for the past decade. And Woodstock Scout troop 220 will once again be at the Town Garage sorting out bottles that can be recycled and included in their bottle drive.
"There will be something for everyone to do. Even folks who cannot do the cleanup themselves can still drive people to locations," said Mayhew. "It's a chance for every individual to make a direct and positive impact on your environment." And isn't that exactly what Robert Hancock wanted to do?
by Christopher Bartlett