Edmonton river valley clean up effort gaining momentum online

When Ryan Haworth returned to Edmonton less than two months ago with little more than the clothes on his back, he wanted to find a healthy way to create a close bond with his hometown. He soon found a worthy cause in the trash in Edmonton’s river valley.

In less than two weeks, a group of nearly 50 have formed to pick up litter

A group of close to 50 Edmontonians have started organizing together in the last couple of weeks to pick up litter around parks in and near Edmonton's river valley. (Submitted by Ryan Haworth)

When Ryan Haworth returned to Edmonton less than two months ago, he wanted to find a healthy way to create a close bond with his hometown.

He soon found a worthy cause in Edmonton's river valley.

Haworth, 24,  came across a Reddit post a couple of weeks ago complaining about how much garbage was in the river valley and he decided to do something about it. In less than two weeks, this has led to a group of just under 50 Edmontonians organizing clean-up efforts around the area.

Initially, some offered support and advice, but few helped him on his first trip. Haworth and a friend went out to the path between Victoria Park and Walterdale Bridge anyway to pick up litter, and after he informed the Edmonton subreddit about his progress, he suddenly started hearing from more people eager to help.

While the size of the park can seem intimidating, taking on the task of cleaning it isn't difficult, Haworth said.

"It's a big job for me to go and try and do it on a Thursday. But if you have a million people in the greater Edmonton area, only 50 to 200 of those people need to care to actually keep it maintained," Haworth said.

On a second trip, Haworth said about 14 people picked up trash around Buena Vista Park. Now, the collective of just under 50 people keep in touch to organize their efforts.

Haworth said he hopes the group is providing a fun way for people to build a stronger connection to their city.

"People need to feel close to their community to naturally want to maintain it," Haworth said.

Even outside of the group, Haworth is spreading information about what people can do to clean up trash where they live. Litter kits are available to order from the City of Edmonton, containing a safety guide, gloves, litter picker and a garbage bag. Sharps containers can be picked up from local pharmacies, for discarded needles. 

Growing Good Samaritan group

Daniel Tran has long been bothered by the amount of litter he sees in Edmonton. So when he saw Haworth post on Reddit about the progress he made cleaning up near Victoria Park, Tran was motivated to reach out.

Seeing Tim Hortons cups lying in nature bothers Tran, but he said more than that the group is uniting people to make Edmonton a better place.

"You get to meet new people you probably never would have met before who live in the same city as you, who have similar ideals as you, and it just creates a stronger bond," Tran said.

Haworth's post also caught Qian Tang's attention, as a resident who often jogs through the river valley.

She said she's seeing more garbage than ever and was motivated to contact Haworth after seeing his post. Now she's helping to organize clean-up efforts in places like Terwillegar Park, and taking suggestions about where else the group can go to continue this work.

Haworth said he hopes clean-up efforts can lead Edmontonians to also join their community leagues and volunteer around the city, as they develop a closer connection to their city.

"It has this cascading effect where we can make some real different change here," Haworth said.

Looking ahead, Haworth said the group plans to clean up around Walterdale Bridge on Friday night next, and near the Royal Glenora stairs on Saturday.