Angel Carter rallied 800 volunteers to pick up litter at the Fish Creek Cleanup Challenge last year. Photo by J.G. Domke.
Jan. 28, 2021
Angel Carter didn’t like seeing all the trash in the park near her home in south Arlington.
The U.S. Marine Corps vet tried picking up litter on her walks in Fish Creek Linear Park but there always seem to be more - piling up on the grass, hanging off branches and floating in the creek. Over the years, she’s seen everything from a dining room table washed downstream to a car door flung from a nearby accident to bags of garbage dumped in the greenspace.
That’s why she started the Fish Creek Cleanup Challenge in 2019.
The third annual event will be held Jan. 30, at Fish Creek Neighborhood Park, 2121 Havenwood Road, and Cravens Park, 400 Cravens Park Road, in Arlington from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“A lot of people have been very responsive," Carter told GreenSourceDFW last year. "They too, walk these trails, bicycle on them and let their kids play on them, where they see this trash that washes down from the roads to the creek to the Trinity and the ocean.”
Fish Creek Linear Park stretches from Grand Prairie into Arlington, and features eight miles of trail along Fish Creek.
After months of tackling the litter on her own, Carter realized she couldn’t clean it up alone.
Neighbors and local groups joined the trash bash in January 2020. Photo by J.G. Domke.
“I decided to invite a few hundred of my closest neighbors, friends and community members to come out and help,” she said
Carter determined winter would be the best time for the trash bash because with the leaves off the trees, it would be easier to spot the trash in the woods. Plus the snakes would be hibernating.
The first year, she was thrilled when more than 250 friends and neighbors joined her on a rainy day to pick up trash around the trails, in the woods and in Fish Creek itself.
Still they only cleaned up a section of the park. That’s when Carter decided that The Fish Creek Challenge had to be a yearly event.
In 2020, for the second annual trash bash, over 800 people came out on the last Saturday in January.
Angel Carter points out trash piles at Fish Creek Linear Park. Courtesy of Facebook.
So how did Carter recruit 800 people to turn out last year? She believes to motivate people, you first have to educate them.
“You can tell people all day long about the problem, but until they get out and see it, they won’t be motivated to do something," she said. "My strategy is to get people angry.”
She discovered that posting on Facebook wasn’t enough.
“I learned, I had to reach out beyond my immediate circle of friends,” Carter said.
She spent all year getting the word out to the community.
In March, she had already started promoting the 2021 cleanup, with a goal of reaching 1,200 volunteers - then COVID-19 hit. As a result, she hasn't been able to make in-person visits to schools, churches and scout troups to enlist volunteers, according to the Star-Telegram.
Watch this 2019 city of Arlington video about the Fish Creek Cleanup Challenge.
As of press time, about 100 people were preregistered.
According to the Star-T, this year's event will follow social distancing protocols. Masks will be required when the six-foot social distancing guideline cannot be met.
The big reward for Carter is the result.
“Before the Cleanup Challenge we could see plastic bags flapping in the breeze, and today I can see grass and the best part is when I see a turtle I don’t see it trying to fight the bottle in the creek and when I see a squirrel he’s not going to have to fight the bag in the branches,” she says. “Those are the things that inspire me.”
Third Annual Fish Creek Cleanup Challenge
About: Volunteers needed to help cleanup Fish Creek, which flows along almost 8 miles of Fish Creek Linear Trail in Arlington and Grand Prairie. Bags, gloves, hand sanitizer and some tools provided. Social distancing protocals will be followed with masks required for contact within six feet. Sign up early for a t-shirt.
When: Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Fish Creek Neighborhood Park, 2121 Havenwood Road and Cravens Park, 400 Cravens Park Road in Arlington.
Contact: Angel Carter, [email protected].
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