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City-county cleanup effort underway, and you're invited

Apr. 1—With the Terre Haute Casino Resort opening Friday and the city in the path of totality during Monday's solar eclipse, a huge influx of visitors and tourists will soon be descending on the area.

And Vigo County Commissioner Mark Clinkenbeard is heading up a city-county Clean Streets Initiative to beautify the area.

On Monday, Clinkenbeard was cleaning up trash along Bill Farr Drive near the Veterans Administration building. It's not necessarily a well-traveled route — yet — but its proximity to the casino will soon bring plenty of drivers its way.

Clinkenbeard is seeking volunteers to assist in picking up litter. The Society of Trashbaggers is growing in numbers, but other groups are invited to participate, as well.

Those helping out can choose a neighborhood to help clean up or be assigned an area by emailing Mark.clinkenbeard@vigocounty.in.gov.

"There's plenty of litter to go around, so wherever they would like to hit, that would be great," he said. "We're hitting a few targeted areas — around the casino, around parks, because the visitors coming in will be hitting those spots — but we'll take volunteers anywhere in the county."

Clinkenbeard added, "I'll be happy to get all volunteers bags, grabbers and safety vests, whatever they need. It's got to be a whole-community thing, it can't just be the government doing it."

The commissioner hopes to expand the Clean Streets Initiative beyond altruistic organizations.

"This whole thing, we're just trying to hit it from all angles — from education, we'd like to get into schools next year and teach the kids young why you don't want to throw your trash out," he said. "Things like making sure everybody tarps their trucks when they're going to the dump or hauling stuff here and there."

Clinkenbeard personally started his crusade against litter about six years ago.

"When I started walking through my neighborhood out in the country, I thought, 'Wow, we need to start cleaning this,'" he said. "I've gotten more into it over the years. Once you start seeing trash lying around, it starts to drive you crazy, and you can't unsee it.

"There's always something to pick up," he continued. "The neat thing about it is, you can see what you've accomplished. You go through an area like this, you see a lot of trash, and then it's clean. It's pretty gratifying."

Clinkenbeard's experience with cleanups has taught him that different areas are strewn with different trash.

"Here, there's a lot of fast food, but when you get out in the county, there are a lot of beer bottles," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's in a subdivision or wherever — people are going to litter where they are."

After an estimated 25-50,000 tourists visit Terre Haute for the eclipse next week, it'll likely be time for another Clean Streets Initiative again starting Tuesday.

"Hopefully it won't be as bad," Clinkenbeard said.

David Kronke can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at david.kronke@tribstar.com.