Students and staff work together to clean park

An empty beer can litters the ground at Wildwood Park. “Wildwood is an underdeveloped resource that many don’t know about,” said Outdoor Adventure Center Coordinator Patrick Shremshock. “If we don’t take care of it, it will be pushed to the side, and that’s not what we want.”

The Office of Student Engagement is providing students and staff the chance to be active in protecting the earth through the cleaning of Wildwood Park April 22.

The cleanup is part of the Make Your Mark campaign. Senior Kayla Land created the campaign, which focuses on community service and volunteering events every month, said Assistant Director of Student Engagement Bethany Green, who focuses on leadership and volunteerism.

“Make Your Mark is a program I created with the Contribution to Campus Life for Service Scholarship,” she said in an email. “In the year before I had received the scholarship, I noticed Service Saturday’s had very low participation and they were done away with. I decided to create a new program that would provide new and fun opportunities for the students to serve their community, and the Make Your Mark program was born.”

The campaign worked with Heart of Alabama. Save. Rescue. Adopt. in February and with Kiwanis Club in March, she said.

“In celebration of Earth Day and kind of keeping with the theme, we’re going to walk (to the parking area at Wildwood Park),” Green said.

If anyone wants to bike, skateboard, roller skate or drive, they can meet the group at the park by 3 p.m.

The group will clean the area around Wildwood Park and Cypress Creek from 3 to 5 p.m.

Green said the cleanup will also help the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation with their annual trail run, the Bad Kitty Trail City 10k run, April 23.

“They’ll be with us, and we’ll have some of our volunteers help them mark trails, clean stuff up and that kind of thing,” she said. “So, it actually worked out really well this year.”

The trails in Wildwood Park are usually litter-free, but there is litter in the ditches along the road, said HPER assistant professor Eric O’Neal in an email.

O’Neal coordinates the race, which runs through the trails, he said. He is a runner and trains on the trails in his free time.

“The park is therapeutic to me,” O’Neal said. “The trails are my happy place, and seeing trash takes away from that experience somewhat.

“We conduct two trail races every year. During those events hundreds of people, most from out of town, come and visit the park. Clean parks make local people want to use the trail more and encourages visitors to come back to run again.”

The Outdoor Adventure Center will provide kayaks and additional volunteers for the event, said OAC Coordinator Patrick Shremshock.

Shremshock said the trash in Wildwood and Cypress creek is not only an eyesore, but it is also harmful.

“Certain trash can cause issues with the animals,” Shremshock said. “Large birds like eagles, herons and beavers can be tangled in trash.

“Wildwood is an underdeveloped resource that many don’t know about. If we don’t take care of it, it will be pushed to the side, and that’s not what we want.”