SALT LAKE CITY — Equipped with gloves, wheelbarrows and rakes, more than 200 volunteers swarmed Memory Grove on Saturday — the park's 20th annual cleanup day.
Among them was 88-year-old Jeannie Johnson — who said she's been coming to the cleanup every year for just about the life of the two-decade tradition.
"I like to help and keep busy," she said simply, smiling as she raked leaves and twigs from a pathway.
The event began as an LDS Church service project 20 years ago, but it eventually evolved into an independent cleanup hosted by the Greater Avenues Community Council, said Phil Carroll, a member of the community council and the cleanup's organizer.
"This has become an automatic activity in our community," Carroll said. "Everybody looks forward to it every year. It's just a great opportunity for people to give back."
From clearing out trash and transient camps in the thick brush along the park's hillsides to planting flowers in the beds along the creek, Carroll said the volunteer work is essential to keeping the mid-city nature park beautiful.
Carroll said at least six truckloads of debris would be hauled out of Memory Grove by the end of the day.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski was among those clearing abandoned camps — trash, pillows, blankets, even a makeshift tent — along with dead trees from the wooded hillsides.
"You find some really sad and interesting things up here," said volunteer Anne Mitchell, who was working alongside Biskupski.
"We just love the neighborhood. We want to keep it looking nice," Mitchell said.
Biskupski said that's what she "loves about our community" and the volunteers who come to Memory Grove year after year to keep it clean and "healthy."
"When we care about each other and we care about the Earth, we can create change for the better," she said. "It really comes from the heart. People show up and help because it means something."Comment on this story
Volunteer Hillary Ambiah-Davis — along with her five kids ranging in age from 1 to 12 — were busy planting flowers along the riverside. She said she's been coming to the clean up for the past seven or eight years.
"We just love it," she said, adding that her 10-year-old son, Levi, was up at 6 a.m. Saturday raring to go.
Levi corrected her, saying he was up at 5:30 a.m. His mother chuckled.
She said year after year she enjoys joining her fellow Avenues residents because she knows it's their efforts that keep the park beautiful.
"We all really value this area," she said. "It brings the community together."