Conrad Ayers, 17, of Waterville High School’s Green Team, picks up litter Saturday afternoon at the Head of Falls area in Waterville as part of a community litter cleanup event.
Specifically, plastic bags.
“We did well today, I think,” said Linda Woods, coordinator of the Sustain Mid Maine Coalition, sponsor of Saturday’s community cleanup in support of Waterville’s Question 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot for a ban on plastic shopping bags at stores over 10,000 square feet.
“We’re trying to call attention to plastic bag litter in the city and what it looks like — the damage it’s doing to the river, the sidewalks and the new River Walk,” she said. “We want that to be beautiful, not cluttered. We want you to vote ‘yes’ on municipal Question 1 in November.”
City councilors on Aug. 6 voted 4-1 to place the proposed plastic bag ordinance on the Nov. 6 ballot, with Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, the lone holdout.
Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro vetoed the council decision, saying in a statement that a bag ban referendum would invite special interest groups and “dark money funded influence peddlers” into Waterville, as well as further divide the community.
City councilors voted 5-1 later in August to override Isgro’s veto and let city residents decide the fate of the proposal.
Todd Martin, of the Sustain Mid Maine Coalition and organizer of Saturday’s cleanup effort, said there is no outside money, aside from environmental grants, fueling Waterville’s bid to clean up the city by banning plastic shopping bags.
“We organized today’s cleanup because we want to clean up litter in the community, and we want to demonstrate how many plastic shopping bags litter our community,” Martin said from a picnic table in Castonguay Square where he handed out gloves and collection bags to volunteers. “We organized this cleanup today to show that plastic bags litter our community and we need to do something about it.”
Laurel York, of Waterville, said she showed up to help with the cleanup Saturday because she loves the city she calls home.
“I participate in a lot of activities in town, so I’m participating in keeping my town clean and a pleasant place for everyone to enjoy — and I believe in this cause for the plastic bags being banned in the big-box stores.
“If every community did this sort of thing — one small step — it would add up to mean a lot for the country and the world.”
Members of the Green Team at Waterville Senior High School also showed up Saturday to lend a hand in the cleanup.
Among them were Emme Ayers, 15, and her mother, Julie Letourneau Ayers, who is the granddaughter of the late outdoor writer Gene Letourneau, the librarian at the high school and the advisor of the Green Team environmental club.
“We are interested in educating, first of all our community at the high school, but then spreading out as far as we can. We’ve been talking about specifically micro-plastics recently,” Julie Ayers said. “We are partnering with a Colby professor … on environmental science who will be studying small streams in Waterville this semester … and she has invited the Green Team to be part of that.”