For the past two years, the city of Poughkeepsie has organized a citywide clean-up initiative on Earth Day, which this year fell on Saturday, April 22. “We want to celebrate the diversity and biodiversity of Poughkeepsie and for people to see what’s available in the city and also for Poughkeepsie residents to take a part in helping to beautify [the city],” explained public relations volunteer Eve Madalengoitia. She continued, “Hopefully, this will help people think about the fact that it’s important to do these things year-round.”
This year’s clean-up, organized primarily by volunteers, was expanded to a two-day celebration, which included a concert on Friday, April 21, in City Hall Plaza. The concert featured performers such as blues musicians Joe Louis Walker and Murali Coryell, the Poughkeepsie Drum Circle, the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers, singer/songwriter Pat Lamanna, Arlington High School band The Well Rounded, spoken word artist Louis Corbet and steampunk folk duo Frenchy and The Punk.
Organizer Laurie Sandow commented of the event, “Earth Day is a large umbrella under which individuals and groups can gather, advancing their own missions and simultaneously bringing awareness and benefit to the City of Poughkeepsie’s ecosystem—its environment, community, diversity and biodiversity.” She continued, “This is a city filled with history, vibrancy and beauty, where promise, challenge, neglect and potential all exist side-by-side. The more people come to know their neighbors, work together to address challenges and dedicate themselves to the great or small efforts within their means, the better and more rewarding the result.”
Unfortunately, Saturday, the day of the cleanup, dawned gray and drizzly, and it seemed that many Poughkeepsians chose to stay indoors. Along the nearly three-mile route from Vassar to downtown, only a handful of residents were outside, walking dogs or tending to their gardens.
At the Adriance Memorial Library, one of the clean-up sites, no one showed up to help pick up litter or mulch the flowerbeds. However, Sandow commented that while the weather wasn’t the best, turnout was relatively high at several of the other sites.
Despite the lack of volunteers at Adriance, Assistant Library Director Casey Conlin and his young daughter resolutely offered balsam fir seedlings and bumble bands to the sparse trickle of library patrons walking by. Bumble bands, inspired by an idea posted on DoSomething.org, are strips of paper on which bee-friendly plant seeds are glued.
Conlin said, “We want to make the community a nice place for people to live, [so] we though it would be a good thing for us to give away trees for people to plant in their yards … We wanted to make Poughkeepsie a little bit greener. It’s part of our job [as a public library] to make Poughkeepsie better, and this is one way we thought we could do it.”
Local residents looking for more ways to help out, whether or not they were able to make it to the official Earth Day events, can take up Poughkeepsie Mayor Rolison’s “seven-minute clean-up challenge.” The idea behind it is that the city could be a great deal cleaner if everyone committed to spending seven minutes each day cleaning up around his or her home or business.
Sandow added some advice for the Vassar community as well: “I encourage Vassar students to include and identify themselves [as Poughkeepsie residents],” she said. “It’s vitally important to recognize that neither democracy nor sustainable practices are spectator sports. Both require conscious effort and active participation. I encourage [Vassar students] to get involved and stay involved; to step forward with contributions of time and energy, expressing their passions and volunteering their talents wherever they see room for improvement, both on campus and in the wider community.”