by Abigail Gerken
It’s a balmy Fall Sunday morning as Pacific Middle School students, me inclusive, set out to clean-up Des Moines’ downtown. While most children are enjoying their time to sleep in, or families are attending services, we met up at the Des Moines Marina determined to clean our city. The Des Moines Marina looks pretty good, so we moved on to Red Robin in town to continue our efforts. With gloves on and garbage bags on the ready, a small group and I began to beautify the city.
Once we cleaned up Red Robin’s parking lot, we moved north/north west to continue to sweep the streets. We cleaned parking lots, street corners, sidewalks and even the bushes! We noticed a parking lot next to a vacant old movie theatre, and other vacant businesses that needed particular attention. We learned that the vacancies probably meant low upkeep as there were not businesses to care for adjacent areas. Along the way, we made some interesting discoveries, like finding a pocket knife among an abundance of cigarette buds. In fact, we found that cigarette butts were the number one source of the waste we cleaned up.
We also found about one cigarette disposal station per block, on the average, which did not seem enough to cover the distance between finding the next station. So, “What if we could propose to the City of Des Moines Council, or adjacent businesses to put signage up for eliminating cigarette butt waste? We could make the signs, possibly. Or, increase the number of cigarette stations along the streets?” We really need to do something to keep cigarette butts from going down the storm drains that feed into the Puget Sound. Many of the storm drains we cleaned had piles of cigarette butts on them or in them.
Along the walk, we learned from our teacher, Jennifer Muscolo (former science teacher), that cigarette butts “might have an ecological benefit – that they might deter bird parasites in bird nests, but overall that the harm outweighs the potential benefits. Cigarette butts, which contain thousands of chemicals, have been shown to be quite toxic to our marine life in our beautiful Puget Sound here in Washington.”
My fellow middle school students, including Dawit Solomon, Payton Hayes, and me may have only spent four man hours cleaning up Des Moines, but we learned many valuable lessons. All of this energy was partly motivated by the October 29th Des Moines City Council Meeting some of my fellow Leadership students attended. There, we heard many citizens proclaim that much needed to be done to help clean the city. From that, we had an idea: Why not help our citizens out? Since the beginning of this school year that is what this class has been doing. Maybe you have seen some of our Pacific Middle School Leadership students or me at the “Brat Trot, Freaky 5K Zombie Run, Ride Around the Sound, Reach Center of Hope, Zombie Fest, or a number of other events or activities around town”?
Next Sunday, Nov. 22, we will be cleaning up the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden, a hidden gem North of SeaTac International Airport from 8:00 a.m. until noon. We will be back in Des Moines City Down Town to clean again on November 22nd from 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. So come join us! If you are missing a foldable pocket knife contact us, too, but you will have to describe it well. It was found outside the Sports Bar on the corner of S. 223rd Street and Marine View Drive.
Pacific Leadership students are involved in many projects, but we are always looking for other ways to serve our community. If you want them to help you with a project, please contact our Leadership Teacher, Jennifer Muscolo at [email protected].