Despite occurring later than usual, Airdrie volunteers will continue to do their part to keep Alberta’s highways clean this fall.
According to David Maffitt, chair of Volunteer Airdrie Society, the annual highway cleanup usually takes place the first Saturday in May but was postponed this year because of COVID-19.
“Every May, Alberta [Transportation] does a province-wide cleanup and they offer the opportunity to non-profit groups that want to make a little bit of money through a granting process to take on responsibility for cleaning the ditches along all of Alberta’s highways,” Maffitt said.
Sept. 19 is the replacement date for the highway cleanup. Maffitt said Volunteer Airdrie is responsible to clean both sides of a 15-kilometre stretch of the Queen Elizabeth II Highway from Airdrie’s north city limit to the Highway 566 overpass south of the city.
Volunteers will clean the highway in two shifts from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Cohorts will each be responsible for three kilometres, Maffitt said.
Between 30 to 40 volunteers is the minimum number needed to complete the cleanup “as quick and easy [and] as painless for everybody as possible,” Maffitt said. In past years, typically 30 volunteers were involved.
On the day of the cleanup, volunteers will meet in the parking lot of the Calgary Co-Op in Sierra Springs to sign in. They will then be shuttled to the highway in cohorts. For safety reasons, volunteers are not to park on the side of the highway.
Maffitt said some safety training must be completed by volunteers ahead of time. The training focuses on both safety on the highway and COVID-19 protocols, and includes a seven-minute video and a workbook.
“We need everybody to register as early as possible so we can communicate how to get that training done,” he said.
Volunteers must be at least nine years old to participate, and anyone under the age of 14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
This year, several guidelines have been implemented because of COVID-19. Maffitt said volunteers will have a staggered arrival at Co-Op to register and will be subject to a health self-assessment. In addition to participants being transported in cohorts, the shuttles will be disinfected before the next cohorts are driven to the site.
Maffitt said volunteers should dress for the weather and wear layers. He recommended wearing a hat, sunglasses and sturdy, waterproof shoes. Volunteers should also bring sunscreen and bug spray. Volunteer Airdrie will provide bags, gloves and safety vests.
Besides keeping provincial highways pristine, Maffitt said the cleanup also benefits non-profits by giving them access to grant funds in exchange for participating in the cleanup. If Volunteer Airdrie is able to clean its whole route, the group will earn a $1,500 grant.
Those funds are not restricted, Maffitt added, meaning they can be used to pay overhead costs like Volunteer Airdrie’s insurance policy, cell phones and membership. Overhead costs are among the hardest expenses for non-profits to cover, he said, because donors and funders want their money to go towards programs.
The grant, if received, represents approximately 10 per cent of Volunteer Airdrie’s overhead costs.
The funding will be welcome in a year when COVID-19 has caused financial challenges for several non-profits, Maffitt said. While Volunteer Airdrie was fortunate to hold a fundraiser in February before the shutdown, he said the organization has not gone “unscathed.”
Because of the significant funding, Maffitt said the cleanup will only be cancelled if it snows because garbage won’t be visible. Otherwise, the fundraiser will go ahead regardless of weather conditions.
To sign up for the cleanup, call Maffitt at 403-993-5034 or email email@example.com. Volunteers can also sign up through Volunteer Airdrie’s Better Impact app.
Maffitt added a second highway cleanup event is scheduled for Oct. 3. Volunteer Airdrie will clean Highway 567 between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Reunion and the Airdrie Rodeo Grounds.