OGDEN — Her years hiking trails, keeping an eye out for trash, have paid off.
“I can pick out a cigarette butt from 20 feet,” said Lyndsey Sorrentino.
The West Haven woman uses her sharp eyes whenever traversing one of the many trails of the area, tossing the refuse she finds into a plastic garbage she invariably hauls on her walks. But her involvement doesn’t stop there — she and other area trail enthusiasts have banded together in the Pliking Club of Ogden, hoping to make an even bigger mark on keeping area trails clean. Group members gather once or twice a week, targeting specific trails and trailheads for concerted clean-up efforts.
“This place belongs to everybody and we have to keep it clean,” said Cherie Malone, of Clinton, another group member. On Saturday, she’s gathering trash with Sorrentino, Marie Hahn, of Ogden and several others from a city-owned piece of property not far from the Birdsong Trail in east Ogden, near the mouth of the Ogden Canyon.
Hahn, an avid hiker, helped organize the year-old Pliking Club, spurred in part by her underlying philosophy about the power of the individual. “I really feel like every single person makes a difference and it can be good or bad,” she said.
But like Sorrentino, she was already in the habit of picking up trash she came across whenever hiking. The club — “pliking” stands for “picking up litter while hiking” — was a natural extension of those efforts and a bid to expand on them. “I just take a little garbage bag with me. It’s an easy way to make a difference,” she said.
The Pliking Club coordinates with the Ogden Trails Network, an advisory group on trails to the city of Ogden, getting direction from the organization on where to focus its cleanup efforts. Those helping on Saturday, Oct. 12, gathered 13 bags of trash from the parcel near Birdsong Trail, a former gun range. Through September, the group had collected 194 bags of trash in total in its varied campaigns, cleaning 30 miles of trails and seven parks and logging 382 hours of volunteer time.
Monte Stewart, parks and cemetery manager for Ogden and a city liaison to the Pliking Club, lauded group members’ efforts. “We rely heavily on volunteers to help keep the trails clean and maintained, as well as individual users,” he said in an email.
The efforts of the Pliking Club complement those of city cleanup crews and other individual hikers. The city also has an adopt-a-trail program, through which businesses and individuals help keep specific trail sections clean and maintained.
PICK UP THAT WRAPPER OR BOTTLE
The natural beauty of the mountains and the trail system winding through them are big draws for many in the area and most trail users, generally speaking, are mindful of keeping pathways clean. Indeed, trailheads and parking lots at trailheads — not actual paths — seem to be the most problematic areas for littering, Malone said.
“We do our best to provide garbage cans to help encourage users to keep the trails clean,” Stewart said. “For the most part, trash problems along the foothill trails are localized to the trailheads. Typically we find more trash along the urban trails including the parkway sections.”
Still, trash accumulates on trails (plastic bags of dog poop left behind by dog owners are a particular pet peeve for Malone), and gathering that one plastic bottle, group members maintain, makes a difference. Clean trails beget clean trails, Hahn thinks, while Carolyn Holland, of Ogden, who is another group member, says the presence of cleanup crews encourages hikers who see them to keep from littering.
“I think it kind of puts it in their mind, ‘We better not do it,’” Holland said.
Involvement has forged new friendships among group members, Hahn said, and raised her consciousness of homelessness in the area. Some of the Pliking Club campaigns have been in wooded areas where the homeless congregate.
“We are all more aware of the homeless situation, and I’ve been touched by the empathy plikers express when cleaning up homeless camps, even though we are dealing with some pretty nasty debris,” she said.
Whatever the case, the group’s big message centers on prodding individual users to be conscientious when using the trail system and to maintain it for everyone.
If you pick up that stray wrapper or bottle when you come across it, Malone said, “it’s not there for the next person.”