April 19, 2010


Volunteers clean up Cortland

CleaningJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland High School students Dalton Jackson and Tara Contento help clean up the city Saturday.

Staff Reporter

The morning sky was still dark Saturday as volunteers began to walk the streets of Cortland, picking up trash for the fifth annual Community Clean Up Day.
About 50 volunteers participated in the clean up, an effort sponsored by the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce, the Cortland Downtown Partnership, the city Common Council and SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement and its AmeriCorps program.
The city donated garbage bags and gloves. Tim Horton’s restaurant donated coffee and snack packs for the volunteers. All donations were arranged by the Chamber of Commerce. Aldermen split volunteers into their respective wards.
The Community Clean Up Day is the first of several clean ups proposed to happen at least once a month, until the Jets begin training camp in August, said Adam Megivern, executive director of Cortland Downtown Partnership. Alderman have expressed interest in having multiple cleanups before the Jets arrive, said Megivern.
Megivern said he would like to see posters with the Jets’ team logo on doors and windows on some buildings on Main Street. The cleanup took place on the second day of Earth Week.
Passersby were appreciative of the action taken by volunteers.
“It’s nice to see (the volunteers) out on a Saturday morning,” said Melissa Martisc, a jogger on Tompkins Street.
Martisc and her boyfriend said because of volunteers picking up trash on the sidewalks where they run, they did not see as much trash on sidewalks as in previous Saturday mornings.
Volunteers worked the entire morning, receiving beeps from drivers.
“It feels good to fix up my community,” said Sean Kempf, a freshman at SUNY Cortland. Kempf, who is on the wrestling team, participated in the clean up with other members of the team.
Brad Bruhn, the wrestling head coach, and Jason Reynolds, an assistant coach, said they require their team to participate in the clean up at least once a year.
The coaches said they felt it was important for their players to participate, because it allows the players to give back to the community. The two coaches also said it will help the community see wrestlers in a positive light, because sometimes athletes are haunted by stereotypes of being wild partiers.
“Hopefully, they will continue to give back as they move on,” Reynolds said of his wrestlers, as he walked the street with his girlfriend’s 7-year-old son, Ryan Opanhoske.
The Town and Country Garden Club worked on the flower beds on Main Street. The group of about 10 women used rakes and hoes to overturn the mulch on the flowerbeds. The flower beds already contain tulips and lilies, but the garden club said it will plant marigolds at the end of May.
A group of Cortland Junior-Senior High School students worked alongside the women from the garden club. The students, who are classmates in a law class taught by Megivern’s mother Lori, said they felt great about volunteering.
“It’s hard to get up at 8 a.m., but once the job starts, it feels good,” said Tara Contento, a senior, as she removed excess dirt from the flower beds.
Contento and other students moved further down Main Street to repair loose bricks from sidewalks.
Replacing loose bricks, was not in the job description, as volunteers were told to pick up trash only, but some volunteers didn’t seem to mind.
“Bingo!” Opanhoske screamed, as he ran to pick up litter.
Opanhoske, one of the youngest volunteers, was not intimidated by trash. He ran after anything that did not belong on the street or the sidewalk, often times being reminded by older volunteers that he should wear gloves as he picked up items.
But the volunteers cleaned it all. The older volunteers said they picked up trash of every sort: beer boxes, dog feces and cigarettes.
Alderman Dan Quail estimated about 120 bags of trash were filled and collected. Some volunteers, including Quail, spent the day picking up filled trash bags and delivering them to the city-owned former state armory on Wheeler Avenue.
The city Department of Public Works planned to pick up the bags today, according to the Downtown Partnership.
Towards the end of the clean up, Opanhoske traveled with the wrestling team to clean up trash outside the fence of Cortland Water Works.
Reynolds, said he appreciated taking his girlfriend’s son to the clean up day, because hopefully it will foster an interest in the boy to take care of the environment, as he grows up.
“What are we cleaning for?” Reynolds asked the boy.
“We’re cleaning for the earth,” the boy answered, watching the ducks waddle by the pond.
For Sustainability Week, April 17 through 24, there will be volunteer opportunities, community-wide presentations, conferences, workshops and film showings throughout the week, culminating with “Cortland Blooms,” the Leadership Cortland sustainability conference.
Events are open and free to the public. For more information, contact Stephanie Plude at 607-753-4271 or


To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe