SURRY, Maine — It’s easy to miss — or ignore — the trash littering almost any roadside in Maine when cruising by at 35 or 55 mph.
So easy, according to Tim Pellett, that people often are amazed to see the scope and variety of garbage they find when they participate in an annual roadside cleanup he organizes in the Hermon/Bangor area.
“When you get out and walk through those ditches and in the woods, there is a lot of stuff tucked away out there,” said Pellett, adding that the situation was both “disgraceful and embarrassing.”
On Saturday, about 50 people joined Pellett for the Hermon/Bangor cleanup while another 25 or so people were busy filling bags of trash left alongside roads in Surry on Blue Hill Peninsula. Both events are organized annually to mark Earth Day, which falls on Sunday this year.
In Surry, participants found windows, furniture and tires along with all of the typical cans, bottles and household trash that end up along the side of the road. The Surry Community Improvement Association, which organizes the cleanup, often hauls to the transfer station enough garbage to fill about eight or nine pickup truck beds.
“It is just a community service that our organization is providing,” Rebecca Collison, president of the Surry Community Improvement Association said Saturday afternoon as the group wrapped up a “thank you” cookout at the Surry Elementary School.
This year is the 42nd annual Earth Day. Although there were fewer events planned around Maine than in some past years, a number of organizations in central and eastern Maine were offering ways for the public to mark Earth Day.
In Orono, the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine and other sponsors organized the annual HOPE Festival on Saturday. On Sunday, the College of the Atlantic planned a day of events — including bird walks, music and children’s activities — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Another trash cleanup project was planned on Sunday in Bangor. Hosted by Main Street Corridor, the event focused on the area around Union Street, Buck Street, Main Street and Third Street.
In Belfast, sharp-eyed passers-by could harvest the latest offering from The Love Revolution, a mysterious group of artists that blanketed the city with art for Valentine’s Day.
This time, the group left dozens of small, intricate Earth Day collages tucked downtown Sunday morning which incorporated themes including flowers, birds, frogs and bees. The art was attached to packets of nongenetically modified seeds including heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, black popcorn and scarlet runner beans. They also left handmade wooden “bee boxes” for passers-by to grab.
All was free for the taking and many of the artsy offerings had vanished by midday.
The Love Revolution sent an email to the BDN before the Earth Day blitz which explained some of the project’s goals.
“An anti-Monsanto, entirely recycled/recyclable art show, again free for the taking, in celebration of Earth Day!” the artists wrote. “We did purchase the seed packets, mostly from the Troy Howard Middle School garden project, so they are locally collected heirloom seeds and the purchase of the seed went to support the students and their garden project!”
Back in Hermon, Pellett said he organized the first roadside cleanup five years ago after getting discouraged about the amount of trash on Route 2. He now runs a website, www.mainecleanup.org, for his group, Maine Community Cleanup, which aims to reduce litter.
Saturday’s event, which focused heavily on Route 2 and Odlin Road but also many side roads, yielded about 100 bags of trash.
“This is the fifth year now and it has really snowballed into a community event,” said Pellett.
Of course, it doesn’t take long for the trash to begin accumulating again. Earle Farley, who was among the group cleaning up roadsides in Surry, said one passer-by tossed a bag of trash out of his or her car window even as he was picking up litter on that stretch of road.
BDN writer Abigail Curtis contributed to this report.