City of Peoria leaders say protecting the Earth starts with the community

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Earth Day celebrations continued in central Illinois on Saturday, April 23, with events across Peoria.

The national Great American Clean Up event and Earth Day festival at the Forest Park Nature Center worked to clean up city neighborhoods, educate people, and bring the community together.

Cleanups began in the morning at 20 different locations across Peoria.

Hundreds of volunteers worked the streets of the city to clean up litter, and people were able to come and drop off trash and yard waste at each site in dumpsters provided by the city.

The East Bluff Community Center saw at least fifty volunteers come out to help beautify the East Bluff neighborhood. Kari Jones, the center’s executive director, said it’s a great opportunity for people to get out, meet and work towards improving the health and safety of their neighborhood.

“We want to work together to be proud of the neighborhood, to beautify the neighborhood,” Jones said. “When we have these kinds of days, people don’t feel alone in their efforts.”

Joe Dulin, Community Development Manager for the City of Peoria, was there to help with the cleanup. He said events like these are important.

“The impact of burning and littering in the community is declining property values, multiple studies show that it increases violence, it increases crime,” Dulin said. “Just having safe, healthy, and enjoyable neighborhoods is incredibly valuable to the city of Peoria.”

During the Forest Park Nature Center Earth Day Festival, the community was able to shop from local and sustainable vendors, enjoy guided hikes and learn from environmental organizations.

Kristi Shoemaker, chief naturalist for the Peoria Park district, said it was an initiative to also educate people about why they should care for the environment.

“There’s something everyone can do in their own lives, trade in, to make themselves more environmentally friendly in their day-to-day activities, and so we want to give people the resources to do that,” Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker said she hopes people leave the event appreciating nature and feeling inspired to work together to protect it.

“If it’s just one person, they can have an impact, can’t they,” Shoemaker said. “But the impact is multiplied for as many people as you have on board, so we need the whole community to do something, because then we can really do something big.”