The stress and fear associated with the choice of college is something that plagues almost every student.
Joel Odoom’s decision was more nerve-wracking than most as an international student in Minnesota.
Odoom was born in Ghana, Africa, and moved to Qatar in 2010 where his family still lives.
He had to adapt to a new environment and a new language, English, which he uses as his dominant language.
Leaving Ghana, his home country, proved difficult as his move would be permanent.
“Moving to Qatar was a real shocker for me,” Odoom said. “Leaving a place where I was comfortable with people with the same cultural background to going to a foreign place for me was very hard.”
Stepping outside of his comfort zone tested Odoom. He said it helped him experience life in a new way.
“It was a new opportunity and it helped me very, very much,” Odoom said.
Past obstacles moving to a “foreign” place early in life served as a factor in his decision to come to the US for college.
“I thought to myself, where’s the best place I would feel comfortable with?” Odoom said. “I thought the U.S. It seemed like the land of opportunities.”
He highlighted a few opportunities such as experiencing what the US will be like outside of what he sees in movies and television.
Odoom said he wanted to stay near his aunt and uncle and his extended family who live in the twin cities and have a safety net if things don’t turn out the way he envisions them.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I didn’t have family in Minnesota. My parents didn’t want me to struggle.” Odoom said.
Why Winona State University?
Odoom said that he wanted to find a college that was affordable, dense with diversity and international students to make him feel more accepted and supported in the path he wanted to take in school.
Odoom said he didn’t want to feel like an outcast.
He wanted to become his own person, branch out and discover new things.
“I told myself, let me find the friends who I truly believe are my friends. It doesn’t matter if they’re from the same country as me or if they’re international or not.” Odoom said. “I’ll just do whatever to make myself feel comfortable.”
After being at Winona State for two years, Odoom’s perspective and expectations changed for the better.
He explained that he gets along with everyone.
People don’t see him as an international student, and he doesn’t feel as if he is confined to a clique.
“I feel as if I am an anomaly,” Odoom said.
Odoom hinted at the reason may be because he doesn’t have a “stereotypical” accent that other international students have.
“I feel as if they would treat me differently if that was the case.”
Everyone always talks about what communities do for universities but not what the universities do for communities.
Winona is no stranger to that. It is a thriving community with plenty of support for the three colleges and universities in the area.
At Winona State University there are at least 180 cubs and student organizations on campus. These range from sports clubs, Greek life, academic clubs, honorary societies, faith-based clubs and diversity organizations.
For most of these clubs and organizations, community service and philanthropy work is a significant part of how those clubs run.
The president of the university, Scott Olson, said, “First and foremost, community engagement is a great way for students to learn. It allows us to put theory into practice and allows students to try out different settings and professions to see how they might dedicate their lives.”
One subset of campus organizations where community service is an important aspect to is Greek life.
Lindsay Marosi-Kramer, an activities director on campus, said, “Our seven organizations all have both national and local philanthropies, many groups require students to host volunteer hours while not many have actual relationships with outside places like Greek groups do.”
According to Marosi-Kramer, during the 2018-2019 school year, the Greek community volunteered more than 800 hours in community services.
Some community members have opposing opinions when it comes to living in a town with three colleges.
A Winona man who lives nine blocks east of campus, who wished to remain anonymous, said he didn’t appreciate having college students as neighbors.
He has lived in Winona his whole life and only left when he went to college.
“It’s not that I hate college students,” the man said. “I just don’t like living with around them.”
He brought up how high school and college students would leave garbage on his lawn or how loud college student neighbors are.
He said it was extremely difficult to find housing since “20 percent of each block” was rented to students or would only be rented to students.
“I do appreciate there are students and groups who will go around and clean up the garbage, especially after big events,” he said.
Kendra Weber, WSU’s director of Student and Community Engagement, arranged the clean and sweep after homecoming.
“If we know a certain amount of this is going to happen, what can we do?” Weber said.
The first year she held this event, around 30 people showed up and they ended with around 40 bags of garbage.
In 2018, the event had about 90 people sign up to pick up trash and more than 100 participants showed up.
An event like this has both community and university involvement. Weber directs the event and buys pizza for students who volunteer. The American Legion has allowed the group to use their space for free and the city allocates certain stop signs for the group to set the bags of garbage.
Olson has had community members reach out to him regarding students.
“Most of the comments I get from members of the community are very complimentary to WSU students, Olson said. “Probably the largest volume of negative comments I hear are about students walking across Main or Huff without looking up at the traffic, but I only hear this a dozen times a year or less. There are often concerns around Homecoming, but lately students have really been careful to be safe and respectful while having fun.”
In 2013, the university applied to get the Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the advancement of teaching.
To be considered for this classification, the university had to have proof of engagement and co-existing with the community.
In 2015, Winona State University was awarded the Community Engagement Classification.
CBD oil has seen an increase in popularity in recent years but not much is known about the new supplement.
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It comes from the hemp plant which is a cousin of the marijuana plant.
According to Island City Vapors, Harvard Medical School and other sources, despite popular belief, CBD cannot get a person high.
According to the World Health Organization CBD also has no dependence or abuse potential.
“To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD,” the World Health Organization stated.
Because of its close relationship with marijuana Katie Jensen, Winona State University health and wellness promotion coordinator said she believes CBD has been more popular.
“I think that is why people are drawn to it a lot of the time,” Jensen said. “It’s almost like a forbidden fruit.”
According to Harvard Medical School, CBD is legal on some level in all 50 states. The federal government puts CBD in the same class as marijuana but doesn’t enforce it regularly.
In Minnesota, as of Jan. 1, 2020 products with CBD can be legally sold if conditions outlined in Minnesota Statue 151.72 are met.
CBD products are sold now because products derived from hemp were removed from controlled substances laws which many took as an indication that selling CBD products is legal, according to a MinnPost article.
The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy said selling CBD products is not legal, according to a MinnPost article but no enforcement ever happened.
Harvard Medical School also stated the legality of CBD is expected to change because of a bipartisan consensus in Congress to make the hemp crop legal. That would make it hard to prohibit CBD.
One major issue people have with CBD is the lack of research and information available.
Jensen said when typing CBD into Google or other search engines what most likely will come up is companies marketing the product and stating CBD a miracle drug or a cure-all.
“There has been a lot of inflations of how good it can be for different people,” Jensen said.
Research from Harvard Medical School showed the most effective use of CBD oil is for Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, which are some of the worst child epilepsy syndromes.
The FDA approved Epidioles for these conditions which does contain CBD.
The FDA does not regulate CBD overall, which is the same for supplements and vitamins people take every day.
Another common use of CBD is for anxiety and insomnia.
Studies have suggested that CBD helps with falling and staying asleep.
There has also been research on CBD effects on chronic pain.
According to Harvard Medical School, the European Journal of Pain used an animal model to show that when CBD is applied to skin it can help lower arthritis pain and inflammation.
“Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat,” Harvard Medical School stated.
For each of these conditions, there are options of how to take CBD.
Someone who uses it has the option of ingesting, apply to skin, smoking, among others.
An article on the Harvard Medical School website stated more human study needs to be done to know the true effects of CBD on pain and other conditions.
Ben Rayburn, first-year Winona State student, said he uses CBD oil for his Tourettes and Asperger’s syndromes, anxiety and depression.
He said he decided to use CBD oil because there is not any medication specifically for Tourettes and with his combination of health concerns it’s hard to find something that works.
Raybrun said he has tried every anti-psych, ADHD, and anxiety medication, each time getting strange side effects.
He said he likes CBD oil because it’s easy to use and has helped with all of his conditions.
“When I use it regularly like I am supposed to it really reduces my anxiety and my Tourettes goes down,” Raybrun said. “They are reduced by I would say a good 75 to 80% of what they normally would be.”
Harvard Medical School and Jensen recommend talking to a doctor before using a CBD product.
“If you decide to try CBD, talk with your doctor – if for no other reason than to make sure it won’t affect other medications you are taking,” Harvard Medical School stated.
Rayburn said he was told by Island City Vapors, a local shop that sells CBD products that if a medication reacts poorly to grapefruit CBD products are not recommended. He did not know why that was.
Prices for CBD products range depending on the product, the seller and the quality.
Rayburn said at Island City Vapors a bottle of CBD oil that lasts about a month is about $150.
The Winona Area Public Schools school board met on Thursday, Nov. 21, for a hearing about the Worlds Best WorkForce and regular business after.
Maurella Cunningham, director of learning and teaching at the district office explained the results from the 2018-19 WBWA plan and described the WBWA plan for 2019-20.
In the 2018-19 school year, the district met two of their seven goals detailed in the 2018-19 WBWA plan.
Those two goals were to decrease the reading proficiency score gap between white students and students of color and American-Indian students and the district was able to raise enrollment in preschool.
The five goals not met included the four-year graduation rates from Winona Senior High School and the Winona Learning Center.
The goal for Winona Senior High School was to increase graduation rates from 93% to 94%. The rate ended up decreasing from 93% to 91.9%.
Another goal was to close the gap between white students, students of color and American-Indian students on the math proficiency part of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.
“In Math, the difference in percent proficient on the MCA assessment between white students & students of color and American Indian students will decrease from 26.7% to 20%, for all grade levels tested,” the 2018-19 WBWF plan read.
Other goals not met included kindergarten letter sounds, third-grade reading level increase, and average ACT scores increase.
Cunningham described WBWF goals for the 2019-20 school year.
The basis of most of the goals did not change from the 2018-19 WBWF plan to the 2019-20 WBWF plan.
For example, the goal to close the gap in math proficiency MCA scores between white, colored and American-Indian students stayed the same. The only part that changed was the starting point to reflect the increased gap from the previous year.
“In Math, the difference in percent proficient on the MCA assessment between white students & students of color and American Indian students will decrease from 25.3% in 2019 to 20% in 2020, for all grade levels tested,” the 2019-20 WBWF plan states as the goal.
The only goal that changed was the four-year graduation rates.
For the 2019-20 WBWF plan, the goal is to have an increase in four-year graduation rates at the Winona Senior Highschool from 93% to 94% and an increase from 13.2% to 14% at the Winona Area Learning Center.
One goal was added to the 2019-20 WBWF plan.
The new goal is to have high school juniors who take a college or career readiness assessment to have scores no lower than 85%.
The board will hear a revised version of the 2019-20 WBWF plan on Thursday, Dec. 5.
School Board Chair, Nancy Denzer said she looks forward to seeing the plan written in a meaningful way.
“I really want to see some SMART goals and things that we can achieve and I really want to see the whole Worlds Best Workforce written in a way that is meaningful,” Denzer said.
SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
In the regular meeting, the school board heard from speakers on a variety of topics.
“We want staff members to present not necessarily administrators,” Denzer said.
One presentation Denzer said she enjoyed was a report from staff members about the progress of a new program called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.
Each school in the district has at least one teacher heading the program in that school. Each is seeing tremendous results in the beginning stages of implementation.
The school board also discussed the process of adding a student chair to the board.
School Board Clerk Michael Hanratty brought the idea to the board after attending the annual conference last year and meeting other district’s student representatives.
“He got excited about it and wanted to do it,” Denzer said. “So we are going to shepherd it in and see what happens.”
The next school board meeting will be Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. at Winona City Hall.
The Friendship Center in Downtown Winona needs more parking as it is the number one complaint from members.
The issue comes mostly because the Friendship Center serves the senior citizens of the area, many of whom have a harder time walking long distances or making it across the street in the time allowed.
Roxy Kohner has been a member of the center for almost 11 years. She said sometimes she will come to the center an hour before an event to wait out a close enough parking spot.
“I have driven by and without a place to park I had to turn around and go back because there wasn’t anything within the walking distance that I can do,” Kohner said. “I have also staked out parking. So I have come an hour ahead of time and I will park and do something in my car till I can watch and see someone pull out.”
Malia Fox, director of the Friendship Center, said this is the most frequent complaint the center gets.
A report from 2018 state there is adequate parking for the City of Winona.
The report titled “Parking Study: Downtown Winona” was created by Walker Consultants. They studied an area of 42 blocks between the Mississippi River, Winona Street, Broadway Street and Kanas Street.
Walker Consultants found that in the study area there were about 4,030 spaces available of which about 3,205 spaces were for public use.
Parking continues to be a problem for the Friendship Center despite the findings in the Walker report.
Winona Major, Mark Peterson, said parking has been an issue for the center since it started 40 years ago.
“The complaints are very real which is why the city has been looking at a solution to solving the problem,” Peterson said. “The past couple of years the city has seriously been considering moving the center.”
There will be a meeting on Nov. 13 to discuss parking further.
There was talk from the city about knocking down the old middle school auditorium and creating a parking lot there.
According to Kohner, that would not fix the problem.
“That is a band-aid because many of us have limited mobility. So even if we do have parking you’re talking two blocks away,” Kohner said. “I won’t be able to go two blocks either. I can go a block if a stretch it, half a block is perfect.”
One quasi-solution the center had was making a deal with Wesely United Methodist Church which is next door to them. The Friendship Center can use the church’s parking area as long as the church does not have an event going on.
The parking the church said the center can use is not reserved for the Friendship Center. It is public parking.
The center has a membership of 1,000 people with an average daily attendance of 125. They also have staff coming in and out of the building every day.
According to Fox, the Main Street Square Development across the street has hindered their membership.
“In the last 6-8 months that this development has been occurring, we are watching our numbers drop for the first time in 25 years,” Fox said.
Since its opening in 2015, medical equipment retailer Winona Home Medical has risen to occupy the void left by Bourne Medical Service, a fellow equipment retailer which closed in July 2018.
Winona Home Medical sells equipment like CPAP machines, wheelchairs, physical therapy products and more, and has the added benefit of being across the street from its parent organization, Winona Health hospital and clinic.
The business’s website says its staff includes a respiratory therapist with “more than 30 years of experience in home respiratory care, along with other caring experts who will make choosing and using home health products easy and enjoyable.”
As the only home medical equipment provider in the city, director of retail services Bill Cota says the business has been increasing what it has to offer.
“Once Bourne Medical went out of business last July, we really saw the need to expand and offer more products,” Cota said.
The business’s current location was purchased two years ago by Winona Health, but Cota said the hospital didn’t have any plans for the property until the closing of Bourne Medical.
“As the home medical equipment sales had obviously risen on a very consistent basis, it made the most sense for us to take over this location and continue to expand,” Cota said.
Before taking over the location formerly used by Wells Fargo bank, Winona Home Medical was stationed in the hospital in what Cota described as an exam room.
In the six months since opening in their new location, Cota said the business has been finalizing what the product line is going to look like, as well as changing certain elements to ensure their services are the best for their patients and customers.
Cota said he expects business to keep growing and adapting to their customers’ needs.
“It’s going to continue to grow,” Cota said. “Because every month or two we’re adding new products, adding new services. Both of those have obviously continued to make us steadily grow.”
The Winona Public Library brought children books to Island City Brewery for the monthly Tales on Tap event.
On Wednesday, April 3 thePublic Library hosted Tales on Tap at Island City Brewery.
Tales on Tap occurs on the first Wednesday of every month. The library started the event in January.
According to Douglas Irwin, CEO of Island City Brewing Company the library hosts the event for no cost.
Samantha TerBeest, librarian, said the event is a fun and relaxing time for those who attend.
“The purpose is to provide adults with, one relaxation, and second, bring them back to childhood,” said TerBeest.
Leslie Albers, volunteer reader, read three children’s book that went along with the theme of coloring.
The books were “The Day the Crayons Quit,”“The Day the Crayons Came Home,” and “Red: A Crayon’s Story.”
Along with the readings, the library provided coloring pages, coloring utensils and a plate of meat and cheese.
There was also a chance to win an adult coloring book and coloring utensils.
Albers has been reading since she was a child. In college, she and her roommates would read English detective books aloud to each other.
Now she reads to her grand children.
“I have been gifted with the gift to gab,” said Albers.
Because of that gift, Albers said she loves to be in front of a microphone. Especially, if she is reading something.
She saw a poster in the library asking for volunteers to read.
Albers said she did not even think before she volunteered to read at the event.
There is not always an audience at Tales on Tab.
On Wednesday there were three tables full of people. After the first book was read there were only a few people sitting at the bar. None of these people took the coloring sheets or participated in the drawing for a coloring book.
TerBeest said some people find themselves at the brewery the same day the event is happening, and others mean to be there.
“I was telling (Albers), people are not going to listen to you,” TerBeest said. “They are going to do their own thing. Like these guys over there and the guy behind us, they will listen sometimes.”
Irwin said his staff has said the event is not very big.
“From what my staff is telling me, it seems like there wasn’t a big turn out for that event,” Irwin said.
TerBeest said in February the library had a pajama contest at the Tales on Tab event that she believed to have a good turnout. The prize was a $10 Target gift card.
As of now, the library is not planning on doing the Tales for Tab event over the summer months, according to TerBeest.
TerBeest said those who play Book Bingo want to have Wednesday nights back for that event.
TerBeest said the library may bring Tales on Tab back in the fall.
Winona had a brewery before the town had its own flour mill. The history of Winona breweries can be traced back 170 years.
That first brewery in the area was Gilmore Valley Brewing which started in the 1850s shortly after Winona was settled by immigrants. Later Gilmore Valley Brewing became C.C. Beck.
The Rochester Post Bulletin reported the first breweries had a few things in common.
One was that all of them changed owners and names a few times before they closed.
The other was that most of them were founded by a German immigrant.
Bub’s Brewing Company, which exists today but in the form of a bar restaurant, was started after the Gilmore Valley Brewing Company. The company does not make beer anymore.
Originally the brewery was named Weisbrod Brewing Company and was run by Jacob Weisbord.
Peter Bub, who would eventually own the company started as a brew master and foreman.
When Weisbrod died of Typhoid fever in 1870, Bub became the manager of the brewery.
Bub later married Weisbrod’s widow and became owner of the brewery, changing the name to Bub’s Brewing.
This was the only brewing company that was able to survive during the prohibition because they sold soft drinks and near-beer, which had an alcohol content of less than one percent, according to the Post Bulletin.
The brewery eventually closed because of lack of an advertising budget and struggle to find cans and bottles to fit the volume discount, according to the Post Bulletin.
The most recent brewery to open in Winona is Island City Brewing Company. The taproom and brewery opened in 2017 on St. Patrick’s Day.
There were some issues for partners ,Colton Altobell and Tommy Rodengen, when renovating their section of the building they share with Jefferson’s Pub and Grill.
Renovations started in May of 2016, according to the Island City Brewing Company’s blog.
Altobell and Rodengen started the process hoping for a fall opening date. The partners were caught in the licensing process for longer than they hoped.
In a video on the company’s blog, the two owners stated they wanted to be a part of the community and by 2021 they wanted to be selling their beer regionally.
“As a member of the community of Winona we hope to exist as a landmark and destination in town. A place where families, friends and neighbors can gather to enjoy good conversation and enjoy fresh local made beers and house made sodas,” Altobell said in the video. “We hope to give back to the community too and be a part of Winona in every way we can.”
The brewery now hosts events like “The Battle of the Brushes” and a drag show with Winona State Full Spectrum, a LGBT club on the Winona State campus.
Altobell and Rodengen do not run the brewery. As of March of 2018, Douglas Irwin became the Chief Effective Officer (CEO) of Island City Brewing Company.
Irwin said in an email that his favorite part about running a taproom and brewery is the people who love it.
“I get to share my passion with many more people, and I get to do it as my job,” Irwin said. “The long days are worth it when you have strangers tell you that they love your beer and really enjoy your taproom experience.”
For many locals in Winona, creating a sustainable environment plays an important role in combating climate change.
Members of Winona Women for Healthy Communities have been active in addressing this contemporary concern.
On Saturday, April 15, members of the group held an art workshop at the Winona Arts Center, where attendees made art for a local version of the national People’s Climate March.
The march will occur Saturday, April 29, in downtown Winona and will bring attention to changes in climate.
Organizer of Arts Day and Winona Women for Healthy Communities member Mary Kaye Perrin said sustainability was the main theme of the art workshop.
Paint, brushes and watercolors were available for attendees to make posters, and decorate umbrellas as a way to show the abundance of rain that has occurred this year.
“People need to pay attention to the recent downpours of rain and flooding,” Perrin said.
According to Perrin, the march aims to make people more aware of the effects of global warming and reflect people’s concerns on the current regulations. This issue, she said, affects a community like Winona with flooding, loss of apple crops and loss of natural resources.
Through the march, the group will also support the Minnesota renewable energy goals and the progress being done toward them, Winona Women for Healthy Communities member Emilie Falc said.
In Winona, Falc said the group is trying to help locals continue to work on issues related to clean air, clean water and offer good jobs to encourage healthier communities.
“We don’t want to lose momentum toward those sustainability goals and legislation that would reduce them,” Falc said. “ We would like for people in the community to come forward and to talk about what their needs are.”
The event at the Winona Arts Center gave attendees, both children and adults, a chance to show sustainable efforts while expressing their creativity.
Attendee Julian Kohner was painting a butterfly with yellow and green colors, and his mom was holding the brush with him.
The canvas, paints and umbrellas were supplied from donations, and most of them were recycled items, Falc said. The art center contributed to the initiative by providing the space for the workshop.
Falc said the expenses for the march are low and volunteers will provide the music and PA system.
Nancy Bachler, one of the art workshop attendees, was outlining the red and yellow paint for the poster “Sustainable Future Now” with Lynette Powers, another organizer and member of Winona Women for Healthy Communities.
Bachler said about 98 percent of all scientists agree climate change is a real threat to the world, and that is why people need to be concerned about such issues.
Sometimes people can show individual efforts by simply recycling and being aware of the changes in the environment that affect health, Bachler said. Water is being polluted, she said, and the air quality is not as clean as it used to be.
“There really is an important connection to health, wellbeing, and the earth,” Bachler said. “We are trying to help people make their own part, while having fun.”
Besides sustainability, Falc said another important theme is local effort.
“We want to celebrate what we are already doing in Winona,” Falc said.
According to Falc, Winona is involved in making sustainable choices and Winona County has recently shown its contribution by purchasing energy from the solar garden, a solar power plant whose electricity is shared by more than one household.
She added people will come together at the march to support not only solar energy and solar gardens, but also geothermal, and wind energy in the community as sustainable energy sources.
In terms of sustaining local foods, Falc said the group is involved with supporting community gardens, local and organic family farms, orchards and farmworkers.
“We want to make it easier for local growers to sell their foods,” Falc said.
Because the march will start next to the Mississippi River, participants were making fish kites to symbolize the creatures people share the river with. Other posters displayed pollinators and apple trees that are under threat because they cannot evolve quickly to adapt to changes in climate.
“We need to use our creative energies to come together as a community,” Falc said. “And inspire people to choose the resources we already have.”
Another attendee, Marv Camp, was bending over a table and coloring the letters for an “Earth Day” poster in red and green. Camp said he hopes to be part of the April 29 march.
“Seeing our current political scene, it’s great that we can make an impact in our small community and hopefully on a bigger level, too,” Camp said.
With a vision for a better and sustainable future in mind, Perrin said she encourages making better choices every day by choosing to bike, and walking for clearer air instead of driving.
To promote walking, she added the group will work to make safer streets and crossings and improve public transportation including evening and weekend busing and more routes.
On Saturday, April 29, Perrin said she hopes for a great attendance from the community and invites people to bring giant apples or suns, and decorate umbrellas, skateboards, bikes and posters to express their commitment to climate justice.
Perrin said, “This is our vision for a better future and a better world for our children, our grandchildren, and ourselves.”
by Allison Mueller & Elizabeth Pulanco – photos by Taylor Nyman
When spring arrives in Winona, the melting snow reveals a layer of trash. The beginning of this season is when the City of Winona Fire Department and the Winona Parks and Recreation Department work together to remove garbage and tidy up Garvin Heights and other parks.
According to Chad Ubl, director of Community Services for the City of Winona’s Parks and Recreation Department, the park maintenance department does daily trash runs for the park system, which includes Garvin Heights. He said the department needs assistance with items that require heaving lifting. Due to its access to machinery and on-call employees, the park maintenance team works with the Winona Fire Department.
On Wednesday, April 5, at 6 p.m., the two departments met at Garvin Heights to participate in the annual cleanup.
Joel Corcoran, assistant fire chief, said they have collaborated with the park maintenance department for the Garvin Heights cleanup for 15 years. Corcoran said he coordinates with park maintenance and organizes the event.
Ubl and park maintenance crew member Jon Mullen said the crew of 10 to 20 on-call fire department participants and the few park maintenance employees gather and dispose of 500 to 600 pounds of garbage during each cleanup.
Due to the use of equipment and climbing required to retrieve the trash, the only people who participate in the cleanup are employees from the park maintenance department and fire department.
The cleanups take place during the spring, Corcoran said, after the snow melts and before the trees and bushes bloom. Due to weather delays and staff changes, last year’s cleanup was cancelled.
“We got to it little too late in the spring season and the trees and bushes were growing up to the point where we couldn’t do it anymore,” Corcoran said. “We postponed the event until this year. There is a significant amount of garbage that you can see, and if you go below, there is even more.”
Both Ubl and Corcoran said the trash found is usually plastic bottles and food containers. Every once in a while, someone will dump large items such as a microwave, bike or shopping cart.
During the Wednesday cleanup, the fire department retrieved an old sofa that was thrown over the edge of the bluff as well as a broken TV.
Ubl said the litter is a sad illustration of what is happening at the Garvin Heights lookout.
“It is a place where many visitors come and overlook the cities and members of the community use the park as well. It is sad that we have individuals dump bikes and couches over the edge of a park,” Ubl said.
In order to bring up the sofa, the fire department set up the Arizona Vortex on the west end of Garvin Heights. This equipment is an artificial high directional system that serves as a tripod, which allowed the firefighters to rappel down the side of the bluff and attach pieces of the couch to be pulled up.
On the main lookout at Garvin Heights, a system of ropes and pulleys were set up to lower firefighters over the edge to place trash in buckets. A fire engine ladder was also used to bring up a tarp full of large items from further down the bluff. Workers below filled the tarp with trash, while others walked around the lookout picking up trash with garbage pickers.
According to Corcoran, the workers collected 320 pounds of garbage in this year’s haul. For the disposal of the trash, a garbage truck was parked near the lookout that could hold up to 2,000 pounds of waste, according to Mullen who was operating the truck. Ubl said park maintenance will recycle what they can, and other items are taken to the scrapyard.
In addition to helping clean the community, the fire department uses the cleanup event as a way to train employees with the rappelling equipment. By giving his staff a chance to use the equipment on the bluffs, Corcoran said he is helping his staff prepare for emergencies in the future.
“You can only do so much training within the fire station until it becomes unrealistic and redundant. Getting out and doing something like this gives us a chance to encounter the real-world problems that we have when we respond to an incident,” Corcoran said. “Unfortunately, things happen and people may fall or need assistance hiking and if the first time we’ve ever been up there is for an emergency like this, we are not as prepared. This is good, real world training for the future.”
Corcoran said the team was at Garvin Heights for nearly three hours cleaning up trash.
“We got most of what we intended on getting picked up that night. I believe it was successful,” Corcoran said. “It is a nice thing to do, not only for the community but for our training purposes. Keeping our parks looking nice and clean is important to all of us.”
Besides the annual Garvin Heights cleanup, the fire department and parks and recreation department work together on other projects.
When the parks and recreation department was looking to remove buckthorn, an invasive plant species, Ubl said they were able to receive a burn permit from the fire department.
“They gave us a burn permit and monitored the burn following the removal,” Ubl said.
The parks and recreation department and fire department have also collaborated to clean up the Sugar Loaf bluffs, according to Ubl.
“As a city we are trying our best to keep the parks clean and attractive for all the users, so we appreciate everybody’s assistance in helping us do that,” Ubl said. “Whether it is volunteers, or workers from the fire department.”
For Corcoran, the chance to clean up the community and provide his staff with hands-on training is meaningful and important.
“Being an employee of the city and a lifetime citizen of the community, I enjoy making it a little nicer,” Corcoran said. “I also enjoy having good, hands on training for the employees. It’s meaningful to people and they are more likely to learn something from it.”