Every quarter for more than eight years now, Jim Snyder has walked a mile up Locust Avenue and a mile back, picking up litter along the way.
And sometimes the orange vest and hard hat confuse some of the drivers who pass him on his route.
“One guy said, ‘What did you do wrong?'” Snyder said this past week with a smile growing across his face.
Snyder told the man he hadn’t done anything wrong and was picking up litter as part of his civic duty.
“He looked at me like I had two heads!” he said with a big laugh.
Since 2005, Snyder has held the city’s first adopt-a-street contract on Locust Avenue, where he lives and runs Snyder’s Piano Service out of his home.
“Since I live on Locust Avenue, I thought it was a good idea to pick up litter,” he said with a shrug, though he also admits to hoping to get a little advertising for his business.
According to administrative specialist Christy McQuillen, who runs the Adopt-A-Street program for the city of Bonney Lake, there are 25 active contracts presently in the city, including Snyder’s who added a second route – along the outside of Inlet Island – in October.
She said Snyder, like most of the residents, business owners and service clubs that maintain the contracts, takes his responsibility seriously and told McQuillen the sign – and the cleanliness of the street – is a reflection on him.
“They’re conscious about their commitment and they’re conscious about the reflection on their name,” she said.
McQuillen took over the program in 2012 and has put an emphasis on recognizing the people who hold the contracts and do the actual work of picking up trash four times a year.
“They’re the essence of the program,” McQuillen said of the volunteers. “They’re the ones out there on the weekends cleaning.”
During the final city council meeting of 2012, McQuillen gave a presentation, highlighting many of the program’s oldest and most active contracts, like Snyder or the Friends of Michael Fontana, who took the city’s second contract as a way to remember a friend killed in a car accident along 214th Avenue in 2004.
According to her presentation, 261 volunteers racked up 266 hours of time removing litter in 2012. In total, the volunteers walked more than 1,324 miles and picked up 452 bags of debris.
“I’m really appreciative of all their efforts,” Mayor Neil Johnson said of the volunteers. “It really helps out to build a community.”
The city provides orange vests, warning signs, bags and trash pickers. The rest is up top the volunteers, who are required to clean their route once every quarter, or as needed.
Snyder said he makes sure to get out every quarter, sometimes doing it more often, like, for example, when his kids are coming home for a visit. Snyder said not only does he want the street to look nice when they drive in, his son was part of a litter removal crew while in the ROTC.
“I definitely have to pick up before he comes!” Snyder jokes.
During his walks, Snyder said he finds mostly what you would expect: bottles, cans, fast food wrappers and cigarette butts. Lots of cigarette butts. Snyder estimated picking up 500 butts in a single day.
“Oh, easily,” he said, adding “Anything you can put in your mouth you’ll find on the ground.”
Sometimes, however, the unexpected makes an appearance.
“I think I did pick up a toilet seat once,” Snyder said.
Often, Snyder said he finds unopened bottles of beverages that it appears people left on the roof of their car. Sometimes it’s something even bigger.
“I picked up a frozen turkey once; still in the orange bag,” he said with a chuckle. “I mean, did their door fly open or what?”
One group, the Bonney Lake Church of the Nazarene, found a pair of glasses in a case during one of their pick-ups this past year. There was a name inside the case and the group was able to track down the owner and return his glasses.
Any street within city limits is available for adoption and anyone can create their own route. Though McQuillen said most of the high profile routes through the city are taken, she hopes to expand the program further this year.
“There’s possibilities anywhere,” she said.
McQuillen said the trait most shared among the contract holders, from dog walkers whose signs are in the names of their animals to high school service groups who pick up litter around Bonney Lake High School, is commitment.
“It’s something most people don’t do,” McQuillen said. “How many people get out there in the cold and pick up trash other people have left on the side of the road?”
Even if sometimes, according to Snyder, the trash seems to return as fast as he can pick it up.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “You’ll finish and someone will throw a bag out.”
But Snyder won’t let that get him down. Like most of the other contract-holders he gets more out of it than he puts in.
“It’s a good walk,” he said. Even if it’s a rainy day, it’s a nice walk.”