Approximately 40 community members, including scouts, Army recruiters, citizens and city officials and workers reported for a two-hour Saturday work detail in Smyrna Park to pick up trash. They’re hoping the community takes notice and does its part by picking up trash throughout Ceres.
The event was organized by the city’s Ceres Beautification Committee which began in 2019 as a think tank for ways to reduce blight and improve aesthetics. After months of talking and coming up with ideas, the group decided to roll up their sleeves and pick up trash to draw attention to the problem of blight.
“We made some pretty good aggressive sweeps through the park and cleaned up a lot of the trash,” said City Manager Tom Westbrook.
Volunteers included members of Ceres Cub Scouts from pack 132, committee members Alyssa Long, Steve Whitney, Brandy Meyer, Krishan Malhotra and chairman Anthony Cannella and his wife Julie. Police Chief Rick Collins and Mayor Javier Lopez showed up as did Councilman Bret Silveira, Supervisor Channce Condit and his brother Gary Condit. Veteran Dave Pratt also turned out.
“I think the clean-up went great,” said Anthony Cannella, chairman of the committee who is a former mayor of Ceres and former state senator. “Thank God for the Boy Scouts; they came out in mass. The only problem that we had is the park already looked pretty good.”
Cannella said that the committee is limited in scope and asides from making recommendations to the City Council, the group wants to engage the community in four or five clean-ups per year and perhaps “pick an area with maybe a little more trash.” He hopes the action inspires others to take greater pride in the way the town looks.
Cannella noted that on walks around his neighborhood he and his wife pick up trash along the way.
“We do it because we live there but we want it to look nice but also we hope that it motivates our neighbors to do the same thing,” said Cannella. “There’s all these members of the Beautification Committee; if we all did that I think it could change the city because the reality is the city just doesn’t have the resources to be everywhere all the time – nor do I want them to. I want us as citizens to do that kind of stuff.”
Cannella said that after retiring from politics all he wants to do is help out his hometown.
“We live in a beautiful community. I love our area, we just have to take more pride and I think it starts with individuals and then hopefully it builds momentum,” said Cannella.
“There are different projects that we’re going to be talking about,” said Meyer. “This is just sort of a start to let the community know what’s going on.”
She said the committee wants to drum up publicity to encourage others in the fight against blight.
“We’re trying to get community involvement to go, ‘Oh, well maybe next time I’ll help out.’ And then try to get more people to be aware that there are people out there working on this and maybe they’ll think twice about just giving up and not helping.”
Meyer said a lot of blight in Ceres stems from illegal dumping. Other practices are also causing blight, such as when residents leave their large discarded items at the curb for extended periods of time far in advance of their scheduled bulky item pick-up.
Residents of Ceres are allowed two bulky item pick-ups each year for the disposal of large items like used furniture, refrigerators and mattresses but those items can only be set out the night before the scheduled collection time which is made by appointment.
Cannella said he is frustrated in seeing discarded mattresses dumped in various areas of town.
“I want to know where all these mattresses are coming from. It’s just unbelievable to me.”
He said when he was sitting in the state Legislature a bill was passed to put a recycling fee on the sale of new mattresses to offset the cost of operating discarded mattresses at drop-off facilities.
“You can take it to Turlock and dump it for free. You just have to drive a little bit further.”
The facility is the Turlock Recycling and Transfer Station at 1100 S. Walnut Road, Turlock.
The city still offers the Adopt-A-Park program so that groups can volunteer to pick up trash in Ceres parks. Those efforts help free up city parks staff member who can then work on other maintenance.
Westbrook said the committee has had a positive influence on city policy makers. One such area was lobbying the council to keep the leaf and limb program intact instead of scrapping it. However, the program is being modified to make it a seasonal occurrence but year round.