KP Volunteers Unite for Roadside Cleanup

The load collected by “Key Pen It Clean” volunteers April 17 along 94th Avenue NW.
The load collected by “Key Pen It Clean” volunteers April 17 along 94th Avenue NW. Patty Reidy Fisher

A group of KP residents have organized online to deal with roadway trash on the Key Peninsula.

The first “Key Pen It Clean” event was started by Sierra Fairley in mid-December 2020. The group has conducted nine cleanup events since, picking up garbage across the KP on Wright-Bliss, Creviston, Lackey and Herron roads. The biweekly events have drawn up to a dozen participants according to the current organizer, Patty Reidy Fisher.

Before each cleanup, Fisher chooses a section of road based on trash accumulation and community input through Facebook. “I pick a road, and I measure it out in third-of-a-mile sections. Two people take a section and go down one side at a time, one person collects trash, one person collects recycle,” said Fisher. “It’s not the most glamorous job, and it’s hard work. You’re out there bending, climbing, jumping ditches, so it does get a little bit physical.” After cleanup is complete, Fisher collects the garbage bags and takes them home for sorting and eventual pickup by Pierce County.

Fisher and her regular volunteers are hopeful that their efforts will inspire others to clean up their own neighborhoods. “Our long-range goal is to have more people involved, whether they join our events or they decide to adopt a stretch of road on their own,” said Susan Mendenhall, an administrator of the Key Peninsula community Facebook page. “We want the community to be able to come up with ideas for keeping the KP clean and supporting beautification projects.” The community page has provided a venue for volunteers to organize and for residents to express their appreciation. “When we did Creviston, about 100 people posted thank you (messages) and a bunch of people liked the post,” said Fisher. “Quite a few responses. That was nice.”

There are several organizations committed to cleaning up roadside trash on the KP, but most are sponsored by the county’s Adopt-A-Road program. Pierce County suspended official Adopt-A-Road litter pickups in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Pierce County Public Works has continued to support unsponsored cleanup efforts by disposing of the accumulated trash, but no longer supplies equipment. Key Pen It Clean has worked to gather their own vests, garbage bags, and signs, but safety is a concern for the group as they work on stretches of KP roadway with low visibility. “There are roads that we haven’t finished due to these concerns, and some that we haven’t even attempted yet,” Fisher said.

Several other local organizations conduct road cleanups as well, including the Key Peninsula Business Administration, Longbranch Improvement Club, KP Lions Club, Herron Island ferry crew, local businesses, churches and youth clubs.

Safe Streets, a local community mobilization nonprofit, connects neighborhood groups with Pierce County to provide equipment and free trash disposal.

Stan Moffett, a Key Pen It Clean volunteer, articulated a frustration with litter that many KP residents share. “It’s like anything else — it’s 20% of the population that’s doing 80% of the littering. It’s pretty much the same people all the time. My wife Mary and I have been cleaning up our stretch of road for seven or eight years now, and we know these people intimately by what they throw out.”

Moffett, who also participates in the Adopt-a-Road program, expressed his support for the county’s program as well as the more informal Key Pen It Clean events. “Key Pen It Clean is fulfilling a need by going out every other week. Volunteers can come out as their time permits. They don’t necessarily need to make that long-term commitment to adopt a road, and either way it’s certainly very helpful for our community. That’s ultimately what we care about.”