EmilyCoxYouth interns Emily Cox (who is now program coordinator), her dog, Canelo, and Tylan Cantrell take a break from cleanup, beautification and conservation efforts at Silver City's Big Ditch Park earlier this summer. The planter is one of several that were planted and placed throughout the park. Other successes of the Cleanup and Toss No Mas initiative funded by the Town of Silver City and New Mexico Clean and Beautiful grant funds include graffiti removal, erosion control, plantings of native and drought-tolerant plants, and trash cleanup. Silver City -- Silver City's Pick It Up - Toss No Mas program staff recently compiled the 2022-23 annual report, and shared numerous successes realized as part of the town's second year as a New Mexico Clean and Beautiful grant program participant.  Allyson Siwik, executive director of GRIP - the Gila Resources Information Project - serves as the program manager, under contract with the Town of Silver City.

"I'm happy to report that the Pick it Up - Toss No Mas initiative resulted in the disposal of 7,670 pounds of trash and the diversion of 127 pounds of recyclable material from the landfill," said Siwik. "I'm so grateful to the 330 volunteers and youth interns who were able to make this happen.  Our community is cleaner and more beautiful, thanks to their efforts."

Mayor Ken Ladner, who is responsible for getting the program started, said he is "thrilled with this project" and how successful it's become under GRIP's management. It all began as a result of his “Monday Meetings With The Mayor.”

"I heard over and over how people were disappointed with the amount of litter around town and on the highways," Ladner said. So he met with Town Manager Alex Brown and Assistant Manager James Marshall, a former mayor himself.  Together they launched "Pick it Up and Toss No Mas," with a community meeting, and organized the first community-wide trash pick-up day.  Then the challenge became, how to sustain the effort?  It became clear that dedicated staff were needed, and Siwik was asked if GRIP could take the lead under contract with the town.

"I just can't say enough good things about Allyson and her staff," added Ladner. "They've made this program a terrific success, and I know they will continue to make it even better.  I'm so proud of the many volunteers who continue to take pride in our community and do their part to make it clean and beautiful for everyone."

In the past year, the Town of Silver City’s beautification efforts under the NM Clean and Beautiful grant focused largely on the Big Ditch Park, where two rain gardens were constructed on 200-square-feet of slope behind the Silver City Food Co-op parking lot. The gardens help slow erosion and also capture rainwater, which helps conserve water and naturally maintain the native plantings.  Rock erosion control structures were also built in three different locations in the park.  The construction of these hardscape structures was managed by Ronald Hartley, owner of Enchanted Touch LLC, a Silver City landscaping business.

New Mexico Clean and Beautiful funding is just part of a larger park revitalization plan funded by the 30 Something Grant, in-kind contributions, and Aldo Leopold Charter School Youth Conservation Corps involvement to beautify and improve the Big Ditch Park.  The addition of planters and container gardens, picnic tables, trash cans, and decorative fencing complement the beautiful Youth Mural Project mural which tells the story of how the Big Ditch Park came to be, all are elements that have been added to create a more beautiful and welcoming area for town residents and visitors alike.

In addition, program staff and volunteers planted 65 drought-tolerant trees, shrubs and perennials in six rain gardens and pollinator gardens in the Big Ditch, and graffiti was removed from 15 locations in Big Ditch Park, Main Street Plaza and Lions Park.

These efforts also help mitigate the impacts of climate disruption, by controlling erosion and the loss of precious water from unnecessary run-off, as well as supporting bees and other pollinators which are key to food production and promoting plants that are drought-tolerant and able to withstand hotter, drier climate conditions.

Former intern Emily Cox is GRIP's new Toss No Mas program coordinator. She said she is excited about her new position and looks forward to expanding the project's Business Pledge Program by increasing the number of businesses, particularly those along Highway 180, that participate in community litter prevention activities. Several businesses, including In n Out Lube, W&N Enterprises, Kneeling Nun Mercantile, Billy Billings Enterprises, State Farm/John Saari and others are already participating.

Cox is a sophomore at Western New Mexico University (WNMU), studying sustainable development with an emphasis on environmental science. She said she plans to recruit fellow students, both at WNMU and area high schools, to participate in local clean-up and beautification activities in the community.

"I really am excited about this work, and look forward to getting more young people involved," she said. "It's important to keep the community looking beautiful so that we all have a better quality of life, and visitors keep coming back."

As an intern, Cox and fellow interns Tylan Cantrell and Sam Chavez logged hundreds of hours planting and watering drought-resistant, native, pollinator-promoting plants and some perennials, picking up litter, removing graffiti and learning how to construct erosion control features.  They also assembled a storage shed for garden tools and other project supplies and learned about sheet mulching to retain soil moisture.

Marketing efforts promoted the Pick it Up - Toss no Mas anti-litter campaign in the Silver City Daily Press, on social media and local radio, as well as a video that advertises the program at the Silco Theater.  Another video was created to educate the public about the cover your load initiative, which requires loads to be properly covered to avoid trash and potentially dangerous debris to fly out of the back of truck beds and trailers.

Given the success of the Pick It Up - Toss No Mas program, the Town of Silver City plans to fund the program for a third year, in collaboration with the New Mexico Clean and Beautiful funding initiative, which provides over $6,000 annually to the effort.  The Town of Silver City provided $19,000 to the program to meet the grant funding match requirement, along with private, in-kind donations of supplies, goods and services.

For more information about Pick it Up - Toss No Mas, please visit www.silvercitytossnomas.org .

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