It was chill at 7 a.m. at the El Mirage visitors center when the first volunteers began to arrive and the first of the eggs, sausages, and pancakes began to hit the grill with a sizzle. Volunteering for the annual spring cleanup may require an early rise, but those who do so certainly don’t regret it! Orange juice and hot coffee were on-hand and breakfast was available for a small donation. Volunteers greeted each other with enthusiasm as they signed up for work crews, many with their first cup of coffee already in-hand. The enthusiasm with which people gathered always catches one by surprise, given that all the volunteers will be asked to put in several hours of hard work under a sun that by 8:00 a.m. was already warm enough to let everyone shed their sweatshirts. As always, though, it’s hard work that is well rewarded! Each volunteer is treated to an ample BBQ lunch, a free t-shirt, and raffle tickets. A face-painter and a balloon artist were on-hand to reward the young volunteers for spending their Saturday morning out getting dirty in honor of a good cause.
Work crews were assembled and departed at 8:00. For those reading this who have never been to a Spring Clean-Up before and imagine that all volunteers do is spend the day picking garbage out of creosote bushes, you would be surprised at all there is to do around the El Mirage OHV area! Crews were dispatched to tend to the adopted Joshua Trees, to paint the shade ramadas and picnic tables, to push giant magnets on wheels around and collect the nails, bolts, and wire that seem to inevitably gather around campgrounds, to install new signs along the roads, and to groom the lake bed. All work crews were asked to pick-up any garbage they saw while they were out digging, painting, and thrashing, and, yes, some crews were just out there picking up trash. As usual the SCTA Road Runners were out grading down any ridges that had been ridden into the lakebed by those who can’t seem to follow the “Lakebed Closed” rule on wet days. They were also out with a magnet to suck up any nails or scrap metal that might be on the bed and digging out bits of glass and other tire hazards: after all, the lakebed isn’t just a destination for OHV enthusiasts but also those who have a driving need for speed and a nail in the lakebed could prove disastrous for someone speeding down a lakebed at speeds in excess of 100MPH.
Volunteers found the work extremely satisfying, in some cases the fruits of their efforts were immediately apparent. The group of volunteers taking care of the adopted joshua trees, for instance, arrived to fenced in lots of waist-high tumble-weeds dotted with trash and when they finished they had an empty enclosure free of garbage and water-stealing weeds, giving the embattled Joshua trees room to survive. The kids, as always, were impressed by their bulging bags of trash: proof of their hard work for the day. One of the kids working on the painting detail took great pleasure in showing off the bucket of nails, bolts, and rusty wire that he had picked-up from around the campsites while the adults painted the hard-to-reach spots on the shade ramadas.
All told, about 175 volunteers donated their time to the El Mirage Spring Clean-up this year, an excellent turn-out! About 30 volunteer kids were bussed in from the Desert Discovery Center, eager to help and to attend the Jr. Ranger Program. Ranger Art Basulto had his usual amazing display of animals (both alive and stuffed) ready for the kids when they returned from their trash detail in the desert and the Desert Discovery Center had a booth set up with fresh gingersnaps for sale. It had warmed up and a slight breeze was blowing when the volunteers returned to the visitor center for their well-earned lunch.
Volunteer events happen year-round at El Mirage. If you would like to donate your time as a volunteer, or simply keep up with events, keep your eyes on www.ElMirage.org, or sign up for El Mirage ENews. If you want to help organize or run an event, why not join the Friends of El Mirage? More information on their organization can be found by clicking here: Friends of El Mirage.
Breakfast is on!
Rose Beardshear & Ed Waldheim.
Wayne Ford from CORVA starts the announcements.
Rose Beardshear and Ed Waldheim start directing the crews.
Checking equipment out for the day ahead.
Wayne Ford shows-off the magnets used for picking up metal from campsites and the lake bed.
The kids arrive from Desert Discovery Center!
Ranger Dani directs a trash pick-up crew. (photo provided by Wayne Ford)
Volunteers cleaning up a Joshua Tree enclosure.
A crew installs a new road-sign.
The SCTA's Road Runners do some lake bed maintenance.
The paint crew hard at work.
One crew gets a jeep ride to their next work site.
A Joshua tree free of trash and a bag full of trash!
Art Basulto and his wife are ready for the kids to arrive for the Jr. Ranger Program.