BURRILLVILLE – It’s a special event in Burrillville every year, drawing out hundreds of volunteers to remove trash from town roadways.

But in 2020, organizers hope to take the town’s Earth Day observation to the next level in celebration of the now global event’s 50th anniversary.

The town-wide cleanup will be held Saturday, April 25 and as always, it will mark an organized effort to remove garbage from Burrillville streets, with t-shirts, supplies and refreshments for those who come to help out.

In celebration of the landmark anniversary, organizers also plan to add a few special elements to the event, burying a time capsule with information on the 2020 effort, and running a photo and essay contest for Burrillville students.

National observance of Earth Day was first prompted by a Wisconsin senator who aimed to draw attention to environmental issues. The first rally for the event, held in 1969, included demonstrations in dozens of cities across America, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Burrillville’s participation began thanks to a collaboration between the Burrillville Lions Club and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

“We started the cleanup in Burrillville 21 years ago,” said Burrillville Lion and Earth Day Co-chair Dana Gould.

Gould noted that his club answered the call from RIDEM for a community partner to sponsor the event.

“I immediately turned to the town,” Gould said. “They didn’t have a really active Parks and Recreation Department involved with this stuff back then.”

RIDEM provided supplies to help Burrillville’s Earth Day volunteers pick up trash that year, and Gould arranged for town workers to gather and dispose of the collected bags.

In the years that followed, Gould began the tradition of  sending a letter to the Town Council annually asking for official designation of the cleanup event as “Burrillville Earth Day.”

When RIDEM dropped out of participation years ago, the town took over.

Now, Burrillville Earth Day is a massive event drawing out some 250-300 volunteers each year through a coordinated effort between the Lions, the DPW, the Burrillville Conservation Commission, Waste Management, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, Keep Blackstone Valley Beautiful and Dunkin Donuts in Pascoag.

Recreation Director and Recycling Coordination Andrea Hall organizes the event, setting up the Public Works garage to serve as a hub of activity. A list of town roads is divided into four sectors, and volunteers tackle the town systematically, with a committee that works to make sure supplies are provided, and that the bags of collected trash land in dumpsters.

Members of the Burrillville Lions Club help to coordinate volunteers at the town garage.

Dan’s Management, which operates the Pascoag Dunkin, provides hot chocolate, coffee and donuts – no small contribution considering the normal turnout. In 2020, the committee will request 12 dozen assorted donuts, 100 cups of coffee and four boxes of hot chocolate. At the cleanup kickoff, tickets for raffle prizes and special t-shirts are provided to all who participate.

Around a dozen representatives from the various organizations involved have been meeting to plan this year’s event for several months.

The group also help to organize an Earth Day poster contest in conjunction with the Pascoag Utility District and Jesse Smith Memorial Library for students in Burrillville each year, and winning entries are turned into a calendar.

This year, they’ll also work with the Burrillville School Department to create a photo and essay contest for students in grades 6 through 12. Details of the contest are still in the planning stages.

A capsule containing the winning photos and essays, along with information on how much trash is collected will likely be buried in town sometime in May.

“We wanted to do something special,” said Gould.

The Burrillville Land Trust has also gotten involved this year, and that organization has a number of events currently in the planning stages.

“It is awesome every year,” said Hall, noting that Burrillville always has some of the highest numbers in the region for participation. “People do love their town, and they hate that there’s litter.”

Burrillville Earth Day will be held on Saturday, April 25, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a kickoff at 8:30 a.m. at the Burrillville Town Garage at 65 Union Ave. in Harrisville.  For more information contact Gould at 338-6334 or Hall at 568-9470.

A pile of trash awaits pickup.
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