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After the 4th: Community cleans up after Independence Day fireworks

Press Photo by Nadya Faulx Fireworks debris the parking lot of the Biesiot Activities Center on Saturday, the day after the Fourth of July.

Fourth of July fireworks are all fun and games — until it’s time to clean up.

Leftover debris has been reported all over the city, from Jaycee Park to the perennial firework favorite Biesiot Activities Center parking lot.

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“We had to put a lot of our regular meetings on hold for the first couple of days just go get cleaned up after the holiday,” said Dickinson street and sweep manager Brent Coulter.

He said the messes left behind weren’t any worse than they were last year, but holidays like July 4 — as well as community activities like the homecoming parade — always “create more strain on city services.”

“It’s always going to come with some additional maintenance,” he said.

Lighting fireworks within city limits is illegal, but the law didn’t deter many families: Dickinson Police Chief Dustin Dassinger told the City Commission on Monday that police had received roughly 130 firework-related calls over the course of the Roughrider Days Fair and Expo — and that isn’t even counting the activity that flew below police radar.

The parking lots at the BAC has become a central hub for families who want to set off their own fireworks. The area around the West River Community Center also draws many.

“Every year, people go over to that parking lot,” said Erin Merchant, who, like most years, went with her children to the BAC to light sparklers on Independence Day. “For some reason, nobody gets ticketed.”

Merchant and her two sons were among the dozens of families who had gathered there to celebrate before the start of the official Roughrider Days fireworks show. She said that in the dark, she didn’t think much of cleanup. The Sunday after, though, when she went back to the lot to check that she had picked up all of her trash, she was shocked to find the mess left behind.

“There’s garbage usually, but this year it was really bad,” she said. “My 7-year-old said, ‘Mom, that’s so gross. Look at all the garbage people left.’”

She took it as an opportunity to teach her children the importance of doing “random acts of kindness,” she said.

She spent two hours picking up large pieces of trash. Another family came out to sweep after Merchant left a post on Facebook asking for help.

Dickinson State University facilities manager Nick Riesinger said he thought the families’ efforts were “pretty unique and decent.”

Because the debris was on DSU property, the responsibility to clean up fell on the university, Riesinger said, but a number of parties — including families like the Merchants — worked together to fix up the city after the Fourth of July.

The cleanup was a community effort, Coulter said.

“Everybody that’s got a free hand available is helping clean up.”