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COUCH'S CORNER: Cleanup events great thing for community

April is the season of spring cleanups and renewal, and here in Kern County things are no different. Last Saturday, our new Keep Kern Beautiful Committee organized its first Great American Cleanup event, and today, Keep Bakersfield Beautiful hosts its 19th annual event.

Both events are near and dear to me. When I was a City Council member in Bakersfield, I would participate in these cleanups annually. I always appreciated the volunteer spirit of this event and how people would all work together throughout the community and make their community better, whether it was picking up litter, planting trees and flowers, or wiping out graffiti. But things didn’t just look better, the volunteers felt better because being engaged in your community gives you a sense of belonging and purpose.

I always hoped that the county would one day be able to do the same, and now it has had its first Great American Cleanup. It’s a little more challenging to put together a program in the county as spread out as it is, so I congratulate our Public Works Department for taking this on and making it happen.

KKB Committee Coordinator Alicia A. Gutierrez, working closely with committee members of KKB, identified 5 locations throughout the county where cleanups were to occur. Cleanup events took place in East Bakersfield, Oildale, Lake Isabella, Boron and Shafter. A special shout out to committee members and community organizers Gary Ananian, Lynn Black, David Kadel, Christopher McGehee and my District 4 rep, Lynnda Martin, for their leadership on this event.

It is expected more than 1,000 people will be participating in the Bakersfield event, cleaning up dozens of hot spots around Bakersfield. As is their tradition, there will be a barbecue for volunteers at the end of the event, hosted by Pork Chop and Bubba’s.

For the county’s first event, the highlight was the Lake Isabella cleanup, where 41 volunteers spent three hours cleaning up the lake shore around French Gulch Marina, Boulder Gulch and Till Creek. Their trash collection weighed in at 660 pounds. I plan on being at Bakersfield’s event today. I hope to see you there.

Studies show that this type of engagement can change the trajectory of a neighborhood, as the sight of neighbors getting involved in a community’s “beautification” stirs hope, while the lack of community involvement and the abundance of litter and trash leads to despair, as if no one cares. When people get involved, it creates the sense that they are engaged and not helpless. We should all get more involved like this.

Reach out to Jessica Felix at kbb@bakersfieldcity.us or Alicia A. Gutierrez at gutierreza@kerncounty.com if you want to get involved. Both organizations set up opportunities for engagement year-round and will help you set up a cleanup in your community.

If you have any questions about this or any District 4 matter, don’t hesitate to contact us at district4@kerncounty.com or at 661-868-3680. Have a safe week.

David Couch represents Kern County’s 4th District.