By Rae Jefferson
A statewide environmental initiative focused on cleaning up Texas waterways will soon make its way onto Baylor campus.
This semester, some Steppin’ Out participants will have the opportunity to participate in a litter cleanup effort called Keep Texas Waterways Clean initiative, which is sponsored by the organization Keep Waco Beautiful.
Ben March, the initiative’s local coordinator and Keep Waco Beautiful board member, said the project will allow students to help clear trash on a stretch of the Brazos River from roughly the Baylor Marina to Cameron Park.
“We’ve partnered for several years with Baylor during Steppin’ Out,” he said. “Our major emphasis from now on will be the Brazos Corridor cleaning.”
Erin Payseur, the Steppin’ Out adviser, said arranging projects with Keep Waco Beautiful has been beneficial for students, and is a passion of first lady Alice Starrs, who is a board member of Keep Waco Beautiful.
“It’s been great to see Mrs. Starr share her passion for it and why it’s so important for Waco,” Payseur said.
March said he did not yet know what Baylor group would be assigned to work with Keep Waco Beautiful for Steppin’ Out. Groups are usually assigned to volunteer sites by the Steppin’ Out coordinating committee.
Payseur said she appreciates the work Keep Waco Beautiful does with Steppin’ Out because of the perspective it provides for students.
“Sometimes students don’t think that picking up trash is glamorous or an important service, but it’s so necessary to the beauty of the city,” she said. “When each of us does our part, we take pride in our community.”
Keep Texas Waterways Clean is sponsored by Keep Texas Beautiful, a state organization with the mission to “educate” and “engage” Texans about caring for their local environments, according to the Keep Texas Beautiful website.
Companies and organizations around the state register to sponsor the waterways initiative, which began Nov. 1 and will continue until Oct. 31.
Keep Waco Beautiful, a local environmental organization and affiliate of Keep Texas Beautiful, is a Waco sponsor for Keep Texas Waterways Clean events.
According to its website, Keep Waco Beautiful uses cleanup and beautification programs to instill community pride in Wacoans.
March said the organization focuses on a stretch of the Brazos from the Baylor Marina to the intersection of the Bosque and Brazos rivers near the Lake Waco Dam.
March said this special attention to the river is rooted in a concern for preserving a token of life in Waco.
“It’s one of the biggest assets the city has — this wonderful waterway,” March said. “With the new stadium we’re going to have more guests, so we want to make sure one of our biggest attractions is always clean.”
March said Keep Waco Beautiful has plans to launch an amphibious assault during cleanup projects this year. During this process, volunteers will be divided into shoreline cleanup teams and kayak cleanup teams, which will remove out-of-reach trash floating in the river and stuck in water reeds.
Steppin’ Out may include these amphibious tactics if Keep Waco Beautiful is able to secure kayaks in time, March said.
Keep Waco Beautiful is using the waterways initiative as a springboard for expanding its efforts in river cleanups, March said. The organization plans to end the year having completed four major anti-litter projects — one held earlier this month on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a spring and fall Steppin’ Out event and a summer event.
“This is kind of a new project for us,” March said. “We’re going to be doing cleanups more often and utilizing clubs and organizations from Baylor.
We’ll also use organizations and groups in the city of Waco, to get them involved as well.”
March said Keep Waco Beautiful’s intentions are to simply complement the work city officials put in to maintaining the river.
“The city of Waco does an excellent job of keeping the river clean — we’re just supplementing that,” he said. “We just want to help keep Waco clean and beautiful.”
Payseur said she hopes students leave the event with a renewed sense of duty to the community.
“I hope they see that it has an impact on the city and is more than just a few hours or a day of picking up trash,” she said.