Ernesto Toskovic thought an afternoon cleaning up trash with neighbors might yield a few bags of garbage.
Instead, the crew picked up nearly a ton from under the Pringle Park pedestrian bridge and around the nearby creek banks last weekend.
It was the inaugural effort for a new group calling themselves the “Gaiety Hill Guardians,” a homage to the Marvel comic book heroes the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Toskovic said the idea originated while he was brainstorming with neighbor David Craig, a biologist at Willamette University.
“Everybody complains about homeless, about garbage, city doesn’t have money, but nobody takes action,” he said.
They wanted to “take ownership” of their neighborhood, build a stronger community and, hopefully, inspire others.
The group secured permission from SAIF, whose headquarters are nearby, to use their dumpster for any trash collected. Craig made an announcement on a neighborhood email list, and six people showed up Sunday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m. for the first clean up.
Working with claws and hefty garbage bags, they focused on areas where people have been camping along the creek.
Toskovic said their goal is neighborhood improvement, to “make it safer, make it walkable, make it cleaner.” Future events will include trash pick-up, but also adding plants to common spaces and other beautification efforts.
After, the group gathered at a neighbor’s house for beer.
“We got to know each other better,” Toskovic said. “This type of thing really builds neighborhoods and builds goodwill.”
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.