PITTSBURG — Although Earth Day was technically Monday, April 22, Pittsburg celebrated early, with local cleanup efforts and an event organized by the Pittsburg Sustainability Advisory Committee at Pritchett Pavilion in Immigrant Park on Saturday, April 20.

Members of the groups Pittsburg Beautiful and Pittsburg Area Young Professionals spent a little over an hour cleaning up areas including the alley behind Subway and Taco Bell on Broadway, as well as the area next to the Homer Cole Community Center at East 29th and Joplin St., where volunteer Sharon Johnson was helping to pick up trash.

“I drive by it every day and it just drives me crazy because it hasn’t been picked up for years,” Johnson said of the area next to the Homer Cole Center.

“This is our contribution to Earth Day. We’re picking up and trying to help the environment, because there’s just trash everywhere, you know, it’s sad, everywhere you look it’s just blown.”

Matt O’Malley of Pittsburg Beautiful and Pittsburg Area Young Professionals said the groups hope to make the Earth Day cleanup effort an annual event. O’Malley is also community liaison for the group Live Well Crawford County, which had a table set up at Pritchett Pavilion. This was also the first year of the Earth Day celebration at Pritchett Pavilion, but like the cleanup efforts around town, organizers hope to make it an annual event.

Christine Brodsky, assistant professor in the biology department at Pittsburg State University, had a table at the pavilion where she was giving out pamphlets and information about the biology department, as well as showcasing the work of two students. Biology student Caleb Durbin recently completed a research project using trail cameras to observe urban and rural wildlife in Pittsburg and the surrounding area, while Katlin Dunsing created a booklet about urban wildlife as a research project last summer, copies of which she was giving out at the Earth Day event.

“Species that we don’t typically think of being good things or we associate them as pests like raccoons or opossums, they actually do a lot of great stuff for our environment, so she highlighted those aspects in her book,” Brodsky said of Dunsing’s project.

Other groups on hand at Pritchett Pavilion included the Sperry-Galligar Audubon Society, Scout Pack and Troop 151, and the Heartland Beekeepers Association of Southeast Kansas.

Dan Mosier II, president of the beekeepers association, said his organization was taking part in the Earth Day event to promote beekeeping, which is a hobby for most of the association’s members.

“We’re glad to mentor new beekeepers,” Mosier said. “As well we sponsor a beginning beekeepers clinic in November that will be held at Yates Hall [at Pittsburg State University], the same place we meet. We’ve been doing that annually for a long time now.”

Although the first Earth Day was in 1970, this was the first year the City of Pittsburg has organized an Earth Day event.

“We weren’t really sure what to expect but we’ve had an extraordinarily great response from exhibitors,” said Sarah Runyon, the city’s public information manager. The city had initially expected 18 or 19 exhibitors for the event but ended up having 22, Runyon said.

Runyon estimated that roughly halfway through the April 20 event, between 200 and 300 visitors had stopped by Pritchett Pavilion.

“We’ve had a lot of foot traffic,” Runyon said. “So we’re very excited about the turnout.”

The city hopes to bring the event back next Earth Day, Runyon said. Anyone interested in providing feedback to the city or to help plan or volunteer for next year’s event can contact the city or the Sustainability Advisory Committee, she said.