OGDEN — Marie Hahn is tapping pent-up energy brought on by COVID-19 restrictions to help keep Ogden’s increasingly busy trails clean.
In late 2018, she launched the Pliking Club of Ogden to promote cleanliness on the many trails around the city. Alone or in groups, members gather to pick up litter while hiking — the activity is called “pliking,” the amalgamation of “pick up,” “litter” and “hiking” — aiming, little by little, to rid trails of trash.
She’s since registered the group as a nonprofit, and the organization has taken things a step further with its Pliking 27 Challenge. Those interested are invited to register with the group via its website, pliking.org, and visit any of 27 trails around the city to collect trash and vie for prizes meant as a thank you. “Pliking bling” — gifts donated by sponsors — is available for those who help on seven trails, those who help on 17 can get a patch and those who pick up trash along all 27 can get a custom T-shirt.
“It was a way that we could ride out the pandemic and still manage the trails,” Hahn said. Participants, encouraged to use gloves or grabbing devices, report their activities to the Pliking Club via an online form.
The initiative started in late July, those interested may register to take part through Sept. 30 and the initiative goes through the end of 2020. Already it seems to be yielding results, furthering the group’s cause of keeping bottles, paper, bagged dog poop and other garbage off paths meant as getaways into nature for Ogden-area residents.
“They’re a lot cleaner now than they used to be thanks to Marie and the Pliking Club,” said Dave Stuart, a longtime proponent of Ogden’s trail system and a member of the Pliking Club board. Such clean-up efforts make “life nicer for everyone else.”
The Pliking 27 Challenge, in particular, has made a dent. Eighty have registered to take part and 17 have actually bagged trash, collectively putting in 179 hours of work between them, Hahn said. All told, Pliking Club volunteers have contributed 995 volunteer hours to clean-up efforts since the group’s formation, gathering 372 bags of trash, according to the group’s website.
As with many outdoor activities, use of Ogden’s trails — as measured by counters located along some of the paths — has jumped since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. “Our natural resources have never been used so heavily,” said Jay Lowder, public services director for Ogden.
Weber County and U.S. Forest Service officials have reported a similar uptick at the many facilities on and around Pineview and Causey reservoirs. “It’s no different from what the Forest Service is seeing on their property. They’re all getting overuse, abuse,” Lowder said.
Hahn attributes the increase to the sense of security people feel in the outdoors amid pandemic jitters. “It’s outside, people feel safer,” said Hahn.
Whatever the explanation, Hahn saw an opportunity to tap the interest in the trails to help keep them clean, and she’s getting reports from some Pliking 27 Challenge participants that they’re having a hard time finding garbage. “What people are telling me, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t find any trash,’” Hahn said.
Still, she’s not calling for a lull in the action. “Part of what happens, when a trail gets clean, it stays clean,” she said, citing research that shows a sparkling trail is more likely to stay clean, deterring would-be litterers from dropping their trash.
Stuart said one of the most common trash issues is bagged dog droppings thrown into the brush or left beside a trail. Along the Ogden River Parkway, discarded food containers are the big issue.
The trails that are the focus of the Pliking 27 Challenge include Indian Trail, Cold Water Canyon Trail, the Ogden River Parkway and the Waterfall Canyon Trail, among others.