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Calgary community cleanups continue this year after a COVID-19 hiatus

After a year without annual community cleanups, communities all across Calgary are excited to get back into the swing of things.

These cleanups may look a little different this year because of COVID though.

Many were unable to drop off their unwanted stuff last year.

This means there will be an influx of people seeking these services, as Laddie Miller, community engagement coordinator for the Bowness Community Association, notes. 

“I do expect more people will be using the cleanup this year than in previous years. It’s already quite popular, and with the fact that it didn’t happen last year, it means more people will be taking advantage of it,” Miller said.

“People expect this event, so they save big items like a couch, for instance. They wait and don’t take it to the dump, since it’s a free service. People might also have big projects on because of the pandemic like renovations.”

Most communities are sticking with the drive-in style drop-offs. However, some groups, like Northern Hills Community Association, are sending people into community green spaces and clearing up any trash that’s gathered over the winter.

COVID safety in play

With the closure of the cleanups last year, 2021 will be the first year these cleanups are running during the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers will be required to abide by COVID protocols.

“The main difference with COVID is that masks are required throughout any cleanup. Both for participants and volunteers. We’ll be working to unload one car at a time, spacing things out as much as possible,” said Miller.

One staple that will be missing from several cleanups is a swap table. Items dropped off at the table are often later picked up by other members of the community. Community associations such as Woodcreek will be holding off on the swap table this year, to reduce the number of objects passing from person to person.

In Northern Hills, COVID is rearing its ugly head by dampening the wackier side of the cleanup.

Assigning groups of people to go search for trash together is on hold, stopping the practice of having little competitions where volunteers are asked to find the weirdest trash they can.

While nothing outstanding has been found in the past, Yana Soldatenko, executive director at Northern Hills Community Association, remembers some of the less conventional items volunteers have brought in.

“One time some volunteers rolled up one big, massive tire. We had bottles, like reusable bottles lying around, clothing pieces, hats, gloves. Toys of all shapes and sizes. Some weird stuff, but nothing too unexpected. We will see what we get this time,” Soldatenko said.  

While the reality of COVID-19 necessitates these changes, it will mostly be business as usual for the cleanup.

Community stepping up

This sign sits outside the Tuscany club in northwest Calgary. Tuscany is scheduled to hold their cleanup on May 16. ETHAN WARD / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Volunteering is still going strong. Bowness and Woodcreek had no issues securing willing participants to help out with the cleanup. Cecil Jahrig noticed this while coordinating the cleanup for Woodcreek Community Association.

“There has been no problem, we have a good volunteer community. We’ve ended up with about 22 people working for the cleanup. Some sell memberships while the cars drive up, and the rest help with the various types of things that are being dropped off. I’ve only had a couple of people say that can’t help because of COVID restrictions. Other than that, anyone asked was quite willing to step up.”

Residents of North Glenmore Park, Lakeview, Bowness, Northern Hills, Mount Pleasant, and Panorama Hills should be able to take advantage of the cleanups on May 8 and 9. This is despite the new restrictions that were announced on May 4, by Premier Jason Kenney.

At this time, community associations have been informed by the city that there are no plans to cancel the cleanups. Although, this may be subject to change.