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Story Last modified at 11:43 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mother Nature in need of a serious house cleaning


My husband has always teased his sister for having her wedding in April in Alaska many years ago.

Relatives and friends from across the country – Connecticut, Washington, New York – came to the big event. Some of them had never seen Alaska before, and it seemed like the perfect excuse to get up here and see what all the "It's so beautiful" fuss was about.

What greeted these excited friends and family were, instead:

• Mounds of trash peeking through dirt-covered melting snow.

• Dust storms wreaking havoc on sensitive eyes and sinuses.

• Barren trees, bent over from a winter's worth of snowload weighing them down.

• Piles upon piles of dog doo, left over from the winter and now melting in watery brown pools across town.

April in Alaska is the equivalent of a battle-worn bar patron waking up after a really rough night out on the town with makeup smeared, head pounding and hair askew.

It's not Alaska's brightest moment. Those friends and relatives were not impressed.

But May is just a few days away.

This month is when we fall in love with Alaska all over again. The temperature drives just high enough to lure us outdoors for the long haul, and we begin dusting off patio furniture and bicycles that have been stored away for months.

Now is when we get that reprieve we so much deserve, the reward for making it through yet another Alaska winter.

With such a nice gesture on Mother Nature's part, it behooves Alaskans to reciprocate with some sort of thank-you.

This time of year, that opportunity comes in the guise of the annual Citywide Cleanup.

This year's event kicks off April 30 and continues through May 7. It's the 43rd year that Anchorage has hosted the event, and it's designed to encourage everyone to get out and pick up all that hideous trash and dog poop before the visitors get here.

Actually, it's just the right thing to do. We owe it to ourselves to enjoy the beauty of Alaska that is, right now, hidden under enormous piles of garbage.

There are three ways to help clean up our town:

1. The City landfill and transfer locations will be open for free dumping for three days during citywide cleanup week – 8 a.m.-5 p.m. April 30; noon-5 p.m. May 1; and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. May 7. There are some limitations – the trash must be household only and all loads must be covered.

2. The Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce is also handing out free orange garbage collection bags for those who want to pick a street or bike path and pick up trash. You can also get them at Fred Meyer in Eagle River.

3. Finally, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 30, take a few minutes to teach your kids the importance of keeping the planet clean. The Super Sweeper program is coordinated with the Anchorage School District and Anchorage Chamber to challenge families with kids in all grades to clean up trash around their schools and neighborhoods. See which school can pick up the most bags of trash and be declared the winner (last year, none of the winning schools came from Chugiak or Eagle River. Maybe we can change that.) Call 272-2401, or check at your child's school for details.

This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, April 28, 2011.