Thanks to Earth Day and 17 Youngsville High School students, one corner of the Earth is a little cleaner.
The students paid an overdue visit to the Youngsville Middle/High School Memorial Park just north of the high school on Monday.
Olivia Zapel's tenth grade biology class spent about an hour in the park that sits between Woodard Street and Brokenstraw Creek.
Sweeping, raking, cutting, heavy lifting, and piling were the orders of the day.
Much of the students' time was spent cutting down and stacking growth that had overrun the park. "The primary focus has been getting rid of this Japanese knotweed," Zapel said.
The mounds of cut brush were impressive, but there was plenty of human-generated material to deal with, too.
Students located items made of plastic, metal, glass, and fabric.
A sturdy sofa was one of the most interesting items. A pair of American Eagle jeans was another.
There were a number of tires, a one-way sign, safety fencing, and several tarps.
"We're doing our part to clean up our local memorial park that people should be cleaning up themselves," Brandon Peters said shortly after he and Jeff Pfoutz carried two eight-foot picnic tables through the woods to the pavilion.
"We're just doing our part," Pfoutz said. "This place has been down here a long time and it looks like it does need cleaned out."
"We've found quite a lot," he said. "Tires, car parts, sheet metal... we found a couch."
"We're picking up - making the Earth look better," Bryce Sherrard said. "This place was a dump."
After less than an hour, "it looks a lot better," he said.
"We're making it a better place down here so people can come here and enjoy the park without getting hurt," Kate McGowan said.
The students expressed disappointment in the actions that led to the dilapidation of the park and the lack of efforts to clean it up.
"I think people just don't care," Sherrard said. "If you're going to build something, that's fine. Clean up when you're done."
"It would be nice if we could get some more people down here," Pfoutz said.
That sense of pride and taking the park personally was part of Zapel's motive for cleaning a park so close to the school.
"My hope is that with them putting work into this spot, if they see anybody neglecting it in the future, they'll step in and take some pride in it," she said.
The park is dedicated to those who suffered losses in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings.
Zapel said she plans to return to the park, hopefully in time to celebrate Arbor Day on Friday, to plant some dogwood and spruce seedlings.