Cyclist hopes his trash talk inspires Aspen-area riders

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Kent Blackmer is giving away "Pristine Riders" jerseys to Aspen-area cyclists who pledge to pick up one piece of garbage per ride.

Old Snowmass cyclist Kent Blackmer used to yell at other road bikers for years to dismount for a minute and help him pick up roadside trash. Today he’s launching a garbage collecting effort he hopes is more inspiring.

Blackmer is giving away 240 cycling jerseys with the help of Basalt Bike and Ski at Willits Town Center. All a person has to do to receive one free jersey is pledge to pick up at least one piece of trash every time they ride. It’s an honors system deal.

The jerseys will be given out first come, first served. Recipients 16 years of age and younger must be accompanied by a parent.

The jerseys say “Pristine Riders” on the back and they feature a cool Colorado and Maroon Bells-inspired design.

The roots of Blackmer’s effort go back 12 years, when he was religiously riding his bicycle before work. He lives in Little Elk Creek subdivision, so he was riding Capitol Creek and Snowmass Creek roads frequently. There was an irony, he said, of riding past the reverential setting at Snowmass Monastery while seeing trash along the road.

“At first, I was like everybody else — ‘Aw, man, that sucks,’” he said.

Then he realized he could be the solution. He started dismounting for a while each ride and picking up garbage, often filling the pack on his back. It bugged him that other riders would whiz by, even when they could see he was picking up trash.

“So, I began yelling at my fellow bikers as they rode past, ‘Help me pick up trash,’” Blackmer said.

The results weren’t great. Blackmer came up with a plan to use a carrot rather than a stick. He hatched the plan to give away jerseys to inspire people to pick up trash. His first obstacle was affiliating with an existing nonprofit, tax-exempt organization so he could collect contributions for the jerseys. The Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus listened to his pitch in June and agreed to help.

Meanwhile, Blackmer had sunk his own funds into getting six sample jerseys produced so he could inspire potential donors. His nephew, Chad Darnell of Portland, Oregon, came up with the design. A company called Mt. Borah gave Blackmer a special rate for the jerseys for a good cause.

Blackmer raised a few thousand dollars, but he still has about a $600 deficit between contributions and expenses for the jerseys. He thinks the special jerseys will go fast and capture broader attention.

“What I’d like to do is have this capture the public’s imagination,” Blackmer said.

He doesn’t plan to do more to promote the effort after kick starting it. He just wants riders who pick up the jerseys to make good on their pledges to pick up one piece of garbage per day. Maybe word will spread and other areas will launch similar efforts.

While out of the road or trail, he promotes the idea of getting everyone to pick up one piece of trash by holding up his index finger. He doesn’t want anyone to confuse his intentions and think he is flipping them off.

“I’m not trying to get beat up,” Blackmer said. “I’m just trying to get trash picked up.”