A Quest for Trash

Katherine Duckworth, Reporter

While walking through the pine forest of Jacobson Park in November 2022, Cliff Jaggie, Liz Otto, and their 12-year-old beagle, Scrappy, noticed something concerning lurking among the trees .

No matter where they looked, they kept finding pollution hidden among park plants. So, Cliff retrieved a trash bag from his vehicle and the trio cleaned up as much as they could.

This simple act began a quest to reduce the amount of trash in the park.

Bag One was only the beginning of their litter collection journey. Over the next six months, the trio visited the park at least once a week with the goal of reaching 100 bags of garbage by Earth Day (April 22).

On a cold, grey Saturday – March 25, to be exact – they reached their goal and were not ready to stop.

By Earth Day, Cliff, Liz, and Scrappy collected 138 bags of litter. Most bags weighed somewhere between ten and twenty pounds.

Early in their litter collection journey, their actions were noticed by wildlife photographer Katey Buster.

Katey wanted to showcase someone doing something good for the park and posted a photo of Cliff picking up trash on the Lexington Park Photographers Facebook Page.

Katey’s photo was soon shared by concerned parkgoers, who also wanted to do something to help improve the park.

Within a week of the photo being posted, a Friends of Jacobson Park group was formed, and an Earth Day clean up was in the works. This was the first Earth Day cleanup in Jacobson Park’s history.

Cliff Jaggie and Liz Otto embark on a quest to find pollution in a forested area of Jacobson Park in Lexington, Kentucky on March 25, 2023. Photo by Katherine Duckworth

Katie Lindeman, one of the organizers of the event said that she was inspired by seeing photos on Facebook of people picking up trash and her own litter collection journey. It was not until a chance encounter with Cliff, Liz, and Scrappy that Katie realized most of the Facebook pictures were from Cliff’s account.

After this realization, Katie ensured that they were included in planning the Earth Day event, as they were one of the main inspirations behind it.

As planning for the celebration continued, Cliff and Liz continued to visit the park at least once a week, working towards their 100-bag goal.

As the trio collected bag 100, posters around the park urged volunteers to participate in the Earth Day clean up.

By Earth Day, 70 people were signed up to volunteer; however, the number of people grew during the clean up event. Families, scout troops, and even workers from companies such as Amazon, flocked to the park to help improve it.

A look at the sign-in sheet soon revealed that nearly 200 people actually volunteered during the event.

But, the Earth Day festivities did not stop on April 22.

Around 7am the next day, a small group of volunteers, including Cliff and Liz, pulled into the parking lot of the Lakeside Golf Course. The golf course is located next-door to the park, and the lake is shared between the two.

Because of the risk of flying golf balls, people cannot typically clean up litter from the shoreline closest to the golf course. However, in honor of Earth Day, golf course staff reversed the order of play, so volunteers did not have to worry about getting hit.

A caravan of golf carts soon set out, taking volunteers from the parking lot to various spots along the shoreline.

The low angle of the sun helped volunteers differentiate shiny shards of glass from similarly colored mollusk shells and helped them find pieces of fishing line that would otherwise be invisible. As the sun rose, volunteers spotted tires and a barrel hidden amongst the trees.

Soon, full trash bags dotted the shore and golf cart drivers returned to pick them up. By the end of the day, volunteers collected somewhere between seventy and one-hundred bags.

Because of the success of this year’s two-day Earth Day cleanup event, members of the Friends of Jacobson Park group, including Cliff and Liz, hope to make this an annual event. They also hope to host smaller clean up events throughout the year.