Student rallies a crew to clean area near McCoy’s Creek Trail

Published 10:13 am Friday, April 19, 2019

BUCHANAN — Whenever Emily Long, 17, would go jogging down the McCoy’s Creek Trail, she would find the woodland scenery interrupted by a build-up of garbage butting up against the path’s west end.

“I [would] actually use that as like a mile marker when I would go by,” Long said.

Long, a Buchanan High School student dual-enrolled in Lake Michigan College, decided she was going to do something about the mess. So, the rallied the youth in her Venture Crew 593, a co-ed organization for scouts, to clean up the area.

To get the project in motion, Long had to get a few approvals. She found out that the property was not officially part of the trail, so the McCoy’s Creek Trail board helped her to get permission from the landowner to clean up the garbage and debris. She also approached Bill Marx, the city manager, to ask for a dumpster. The city agreed to donate one for the project.

On April 6, the Venture Crew spent roughly four hours working at the site near the trail, which is near the mural. They set to work removing abandoned tires, cans, bottles, blankets caked in dirt, shattered porcelain from a broken toilet and a variety of other refuse.

“This was basically an old dump site,” Long said. “Anything, you name it; it was there.”

Some of the trash had been there for so long that the trees and foliage had started growing into the garbage, meaning youth had to try to cut out boards and other trash that had become part of the tree bark. The youth filled a dumpster and more than 20 garbage bags full of trash.

Long was not the only one that had noticed the trash buildup along the scenic trail. The city had received complaints from others traversing the trail that the site was an eyesore.

As the youth worked April 6, she said several people were walking along the trail. One woman stopped to thank them and said she had wanted to clean that spot herself for years.

Long has long had a vested interest in protecting and preserving the natural environment. She has been part of the Venture Crew for roughly three years. She joined because at the time, she said she could not be part of the Boy Scout troop.

“I just thought it was a neat program and had seen a few crews around the area,” she said.

Long got the chance to join the Boy Scouts this February when the organization announced that it would be integrating girls into the program. Long is now part of the LaSalle Council Troop 920 in Valparaiso, Indiana. Here, she furthers her love of the outdoors and giving back to her community.

“Girls are making a large change in scouting for the better,” Long said. “We can do things just as well [as boys], and I’m excited to prove that.”

Her involvement in these local clubs and the projects they have inspired has also helped her to determine a career path. After high school, Long hopes to study environmental sciences and serve as a national park ranger.

Until then, Long expressed pride for what the Venture Crew achieved to improve her community.