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Calgary volunteers tidy riverbanks and pathways in annual cleanup

The annual cleanups started with a young girl seeing a mattress in the Elbow River.

The spring cleaning season is here with the 56th annual Pathways and River Clean up.

ConocoPhillips, who is the presenting sponsor of the Pathways and River Clean up, had more than 1,800 volunteers kick off their weekend-long journey at select areas across Calgary Friday morning, with the goal of cleaning up the pathway and river system.

Jim Davis, Program Coordinator in Parks and Open Spaces with City of Calgary, met with one of the 130 ConocoPhillips volunteer groups Friday morning at Refinery Park to signal the start of the three-day cleanup.

“The fact that we’ve got a couple of thousand Calgarians this weekend that are again taking time to come out and pick up litter, we’re just incredibly appreciative and it’s one of the things that helps make the city great,” Davis said.

Davis is in his first year coordinating the event but has been involved with the cleanup in years prior.

He’s happy to see how the event has grown.

“We’re seeing very strong interest each year, we have more groups this year than we did last year, a lot of folks want to pitch in, it’s a great team building event,” Davis said.

ConocoPhillips volunteers gather for a group photo, before cleaning up the pathways and riverbanks at Refinery Park. JAMES WINDLER / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The event started in 1967 when Sandra Crawford, who was just 12 years old at the time, noticed a mattress floating in the Elbow River.

After being unsuccessful in her attempts to remove it, she wrote and letter to the Calgary Herald about the mattress.

Since then, the event has grown into an annual clean-up that attracts hundreds of volunteers like Steven Lee.

Steven Lee volunteers with ConocoPhillips in other aspects across the city, but for him, the riverside and pathways cleanup is something he particularly looks forward to.

“This is a fun one, given that we have done it every year we’ve gotten into a bit of a cadence of doing that, it’s an opportunity I look forward to every year,” Lee said.

Lee, much like Davis believes this event is one of the things that makes Calgary great.

“As a Calgarian, I think it’s great for the city,” Lee said.

“I love to see our parks get cleaned up more, all of those sorts of programs are fantastic and the city is a really great partner to be involved in that.”

Two of the 1,800 plus volunteers cleaning up the Refinery Park pathways. JAMES WINDLER / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The Pathways and River clean-up has gotten so popular that registration for it now opens months in advance.

This year’s registration was from Feb 15 – March 8, but there are still many more opportunities to get out and help clean up communities across Calgary.

“There is an opportunity to pitch in year-round, we have a program called TLC kits, so if you just Google TLC kits Calgary you would find the link and those are litter cleanup kits that we pass out that folks can organize their own clean-ups of a city park or natural area,” Davis said.

The kits are limited to one per household, and in them, you can find enough supplies (gloves and garbage bags, etc.) for up to six people.