Northern Michigan University EarthKeeper Student Teams Makes a Difference by removing trash from a favorite youth party spot on a Lake Superior tributary in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
(Marquette, Michigan) – A student environment group from Northern Michigan University honored “Make A Difference Day” by picking up hundreds of pounds of litter and garbage at a favorite youth party spot around the Upper Dead River Falls in Marquette, Michigan.
The rubbish collected by the Northern Michigan University EarthKeeper (NMU EK) Student Team on Saturday (October 24, 2009) included rusty box springs, a smashed vehicle windshield and a plethora of beer bottles and cans. Some of the beverage containers were very old because they had the old pull-top design.
The Upper Dead River Falls is a rugged area with sandy hills, steep trails, rocky cliffs, a lengthy series of waterfalls and the obvious remnants of many campfires.
“I just found a used diaper, a lot of glass, broken bottles, cans and cigarette wrappers,” said Ben Scheelk, 21, of Charlevoix, MI, director of the NMU EK Student Team.
“What really disappoints me is all the big things we are finding like bed springs and other rusty old metal things,” Scheelk said.
While looking at the rushing water, NMU EK Student Team Event Coordinator Amanda Emerson said “water is an important entity of the world and even though we have so much of it around here we have to cherish it that much more.”
“We been out here so many times there is no one out here ever picking it up their trash,” said Emerson, 21, of Cary, Ill. (NW Chicago).
NMU Senior Chelsey Cebulsky said she was proud to participate in “Make A Difference Day” and “picking up this trash is a good thing to do for the environment.”
“I have been out here many times for the party scene but I was always the one carrying around a plastic bag telling everyone to put their cans in it – sadly not very many people listened,” said Chelsey Cebulsky, 22, a physical geography major from of Adrian, MI. “Get a trash bag and get rid of trash yourself.”
NMU junior Ben Youren used gloves to carefully separated hundreds of pieces of shattered glass from the muddy soil on a hillside along the river.
“It looks like it is part of a windshield,” said Youren, 26, an English major. “I am trying to dig the glass out of here.”
The NMU environment group is the student wing of the interfaith Upper Peninsula EarthKeeper Team that holds annual Earth Day environment projects across northern Michigan including planting over 12,000 trees this past spring.
Prior to the collection, the group sat in a circle at the NMU University Center and got a lesson in the importance of clean water from the co-founder of the Upper Peninsula EarthKeeper Initiative.
“Almost 80 percent of the world is water and our bodies are 80 percent water, said Rev. Jon Magnuson, co-founder of the EarthKeeper Initiative and campus pastor for NMU Lutheran Campus Ministry.
“There is a delicate balance when it comes to pH or the amount of acid in water and if that balance gets thrown off we can die.”
Magnuson said people who grow up in northern Michigan sometimes “take it for granted because we have so much water.”
“If you go to other places in the world you will see people who have to travel miles to get fresh water,” Magnuson said. “Their whole life is centered around accessing good water.”
The students clean up project may of had a preventative effect.
While the students were cleaning up the area, a pickup truck pulled up with a load of tires in the back. After talking briefly to the students, the two men in the truck pulled away.
“It looks like we prevented them from dumping a whole load of tires along side of the river,” Scheelk said.
Background on EarthKeeper Initiative:
The EarthKeepers are an interfaith environment group involving over 150 churches and temples across northern Michigan.
The EarthKeeper Initiative is co-sponsored by the nonprofit Cedar Tree Institute, the nonprofit Superior Watershed Partnership, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and 10 faith communities: Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist, Baha’i, Jewish, Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) and Zen Buddhist.