Riverswalk Trail cleanup

Picking up trash along the Jim Mayer Riverswalk Trail during the Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, are (from left) Craig Leibfried, of Johnstown, and state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Volunteers picked up so much trash – bottles, paper, plastic and more – from the Jim Mayer Riverswalk Trail on Tuesday that organizers of the Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania event needed to purchase more garbage bags to hold all of it.

“It just goes to show you what a small number can do and what you can achieve,” said Thomas Prestash, executive of PennDOT District 9, which helped organize the effort. “The amount of garbage we pulled up, litter we pulled up is truly tremendous. Within a matter of an hour, we had this whole trail cleaned up. Again, without those volunteers, we couldn’t have done it.”

The cleanup – a joint venture involving the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority, Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, Cambria County Conservation District and the family of the late conservationist Jim Mayer – spruced up the popular Johnstown trail heading into the spring and summer outdoor recreation season.

Elizabeth Mayer, daughter of Jim Mayer, was “thrilled” that the state selected the trail to be part of the statewide program this year. Her brother, Fritz Mayer, thanked the participants, saying, “It means quite a bit.”

Cambria County Commissioner Thomas Chernisky said the trail – and other paths in the county – play an important role in enhancing the region’s quality of life.

“We love our trails,” Chernisky said. “We know you love our trails. And they all connect together. It’s about economic development. It’s about quality of life.”

The event was held as part of local and state activities for Earth Day, which officially took place on Monday.

“These Earth Day cleanup events are critical,” Pennsylvania DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said. “Whether we’re doing it on a trail, or along a river or stream, or urban areas, it’s ways for people to reconnect back with their environment and understand the impact that we’re having and the positive impact we can have on our environment.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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