Volunteers clean up Fort Dodge, one odd bit of trash at a time
During the annual Foreign Object and Debris walk, it’s almost inevitable that one of the volunteers picking up litter and debris finds something a bit, well, unusual.
The bag of human hair found one year in a shallow ditch is now a legend.
This year, a few items will be added to the list.
Megan Kruse, a volunteer with Decker Truck Line Inc., made the discovery across the street from the Webster County Law Enforcement Center on First Avenue South.
“I found a fingernail,” she said.
Her co-worker, Courtney Bachel, noted something crucial about the discovery: “The finger was not attached.”
This is the first year that the FOD walk included downtown Fort Dodge and the area at Kenyon Road and U.S. Highway 169 in addition to the area around the city’s east business district.
Maggie Carlin, the associate city planner in Fort Dodge and a member of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance’s Image Committee, said adding downtown was inspired by two things.
“Last year McClure Engineering did a FOD walk downtown on their own the day after ours,” she said. “Also, because of the date, we expected the farmer who’s on the land on the east side to already have planted.”
Carlin estimated that almost 150 volunteers came out to help pick up debris in all three areas of the walk.
Jennifer Weiss, with KHI Solutions, and Emily Mason, with Active Health Chiropractic, were filling up their bright orange bags on the north sidewalk along First Avenue South and the alley between it and Central Avenue. They were working their way west towards Third Street.
Weiss’ discoveries were pretty much what one would expect.
“It’s the usual stuff so far,” she said, holding up a bag with an assortment of bags, wrappers and cans.
Mason, on the other hand, found treasure.
“I got a Mexican salsa dish,” she said.
Their group was led by Webster County Conservation Director Matt Cosgrove, whose son had lucked out on a previous FOD walk.
“My son found a $20 bill one year,” Cosgrove said.
He was happy to be helping out.
“This is giving our downtown a good new look,” he said.
But he had found nothing unusual.
“Not yet,” he said. “Then, again, it’s early.”
The FOD walk includes teams from local companies, including Cargill and Valero Renewables, as well as service groups such as Pride In Community Appearance. Several local churches sent volunteers and the entire Red Shift from the Fort Dodge Fire Department also participated.
Firefighters Andy Hull and Spencer Gratton were among them.
“We’re public servants,” Gratton said.
“It’s our job to serve the community,” Hull added.
Luke Huggins and Austyn Wolfe, both with McClure Engineering Co. Inc., were working their way through a brush-filled alley just off Central Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets.
Huggins found some cutlery.
“I found a nine-inch knife,” he said. “Good to get that off the streets.”
The two of them also worked together to pick up a set of tires.
“We just threw two tires away that had been sitting in the middle of the alley.” Huggins said.
Wolfe was finding pretty much what he expected to find.
“There’s lots of cigarette butts,” he said. “I’m not sure what to do about that. There’s a lot of drinking straws too.”
They were disappointed.
“We work downtown,” Huggins said. “We take pride in where we work and where we live. It only takes a few people to ruin it for everyone.”
Rhonda Chambers, the Image Committee chairwoman who started the FOD walk, said the term is borrowed from the practice of going over a runway in a line picking up anything and everything on it that should not be there.
It’s also the three-letter Federal Aviation Administration designation for the Fort Dodge Regional Airport.
Chambers would love to see the FOD walk not happen.
“Wouldn’t it be great if one year we didn’t have to have this?” she said. “Unfortunately, people still use the community as a garbage can.”
At the end of the day, Carlin said 102 bags of garbage were collected in the downtown area and 36 in the other two areas.
“We would like to thank all our volunteers today,” she said. “We also want to thank those that pick up garbage all the time in front of their homes and businesses.”