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Handful of locals buck national trend -- National civic participation on decline

Mark Selle, fire marshal with Dickinson Fire Department, assists volunteers with the annual Spring Cleanup select their routes at the City of Dickinson Public Safety Center. James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press1 / 2
The national trend which has witnessed a decline in civic involvement was evident at this year's event as a handful of companies, organizations and citizens volunteered to participate in the Spring Cleanup. James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press2 / 2

A Pew Research Center study, conducted through a national phone survey of adults, found that 75% of Americans claimed to be active in one kind of group or another. Despite the seemingly high number of civic-minded Americans, many of the civic functions cities and counties rely on have seen drastic declines in participation since 2010.

On Thursday, April 11, the Dickinson Fire Department hosted their annual Spring Cleanup. The program provides an opportunity for all residents, clubs, schools, churches and businesses to participate in a city-wide civic Spring Cleanup. This event allows people to come together to help by cleaning up the area around local businesses, residential areas and city parks in an effort to keep Dickinson beautiful.

The turnout this year was unusually low, despite a valiant effort of promoting the event by the fire department.

"The turnout this year was lower than expected, but people interested in volunteering can still go to our website, Facebook page or call us at the fire department at 456-7625 and sign up," Mark Selle, coordinator of the event and fire marshal with Dickinson Fire Department, said. "Even if you can't get a group together, clean up your area, your street, your neighborhood — anything you can do to make our city look better and be fire safe goes a long way."

Selle added, "We'd love for more people to get their groups together and come out help clean up as much as possible."

Those who were in attendance represented a handful of local businesses and community organizations, including God and Country 4-H Club and Marathon Oil Corporation.

"We do this every year. Our company asked for volunteers and I had the time and willingness to do it, so we'll be cleaning from our offices north of town all the way down to the interstate," Megan Greenwood, administrative assistant with Marathon Oil Corporation, said. "That's a road that we all travel everyday, and we also have a lot of contractors and business that we reach out to with an invitation to join us. When we're done with the cleanup we'll serve a big lunch for all of our volunteers."

Dee Nelson, a parent of a young daughter involved with God and Country 4-H, said that the 15 members of the club would be participating in the annual cleanup with parents and chaperones assisting.

"We adopted State Avenue from 15th Street to the Microtel on Sixth Avenue," Nelson said. "We just want to do something good for the community, and this event is a perfect opportunity to do it."

While turnout at this year's event was lower than in previous iterations, there have been others in the community who have taken up the mantle of cleaning the city of their own accord.

Steven Davenport, a resident of Dickinson, took the initiative to try to make a difference in the community by picking up trash along fence lines in the city and has even extended invitations to others in the community to join him via social media.

"I fell on hard times recently and am currently unemployed. As a result, I fell into a slump and I just decided to get myself out of it by making changes in my lifestyle," Davenport said. "I recently quit smoking and have taken up walking as a way to keep me active and my mind off of the cigarette. During one of these walks, I noticed a lot of trash and stuff like that along the roadway. I walked into the Subway and asked Brittany Dickard, who works there, for a trash bag."

Davenport spent the next 45 minutes filling the bag with trash strewn along the roadway and fence line — something he says made him feel good, adding that everyone could help make the community a cleaner and more attractive place.

"I just started picking up trash and it started from there. Today is day number seven, and I'm hopeful that others will get in on this and take ten to 15 minutes of their day to fill a bag or even half a bag with trash in their own areas of town," he said. "Every little bit helps."

Davenport added, "We can all get trapped in our own little world and we forget about the world surrounding us. Get out of your car, walk and pick up trash you see."

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