“Best community event ever:” Snowmass Village continues town cleanup tradition | AspenTimes.com

“Best community event ever:” Snowmass Village continues town cleanup tradition

41st annual town beautification effort tidies up the village

In Rhonda Coxon’s book, the annual Snowmass Village Town Clean Up Day is the “best community event ever.”

The town clerk has been organizing the event for the better part of three decades in the event’s 41-year tenure; this year’s May 21 cleanup marked the 29th iteration with Coxon at the helm.

Better yet that this year it could happen in person, she said, with only slight modifications like prepackaged lunches and no more outdoor mask zones. Last year’s 40th-anniversary pandemic version was a monthlong, socially distant affair with a virtual raffle instead of the usual celebratory gathering in Town Park.

“It was fantastic after last year, when we did it all virtually. … I had so much fun seeing faces today instead of masks,” Coxon said.

She wasn’t the only one looking forward to some familiar faces.

“I love to see the community come together like this. There are people I only see at Town Clean Up,” said Carol Dresser, who is the vice president of cleanup day sponsor Alpine Bank in Snowmass. She works with Coxon every year to keep the tradition going.

“It’s one of the few things I think that’s uniquely Snowmass. … This is just a community, grassroots effort,” Dresser said.

The effort spans nearly every corner of Snowmass Village, from the Divide Lot to the Tom Blake trailhead and everywhere in between.

Coxon dispatched community members throughout town, making sure she sent plenty of troops to the numbered lots for some much-needed extra attention. A combination of high traffic and snow removal efforts that push snow and trash alike to the edge of the lots all winter means that there can be a season’s worth of garbage — and a few valuables — waiting when the temperatures warm.

Snowmass Village Town Clerk Rhonda Coxon, center, takes a minute to address the crowd May 21 gathered at check-in for the annual Town Cleanup Day. Coxon has been organizing the event for the better part of three decades in the event’s 41-year tenure; this year’s May 21 cleanup marked the 29th iteration with Coxon at the helm.

“There were some treasures to be found,” said Mayor Bill Madsen, who has been participating in town cleanups for what feels like “forever.”

One eagle-eyed participant spotted a silver ring that will go to the town’s lost and found, Coxon said. Someone else stumbled upon a luggage cart from a hotel, another found a full-sized tire. Only one person was successful in the search for four hidden golden bottles that entitled their finders to prizes, but someone else scored cash for turning up an orange bottle from the same contest three years ago.

But if one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, some trash is just, well, trash — or very strange treasure, anyway. The 2-foot dead carp discovered in a bag by the numbered lots might fall into that category.

All told, around 145 people pre-registered and about 10 more showed up unregistered, according to Coxon.

The pre-registration form was new this year and likely a one-time-only thing; it was necessary mostly to prepare an order for boxed lunches, she said. (In non-pandemic years, the town usually hosts a post-cleanup barbecue and buys enough hamburgers and hot dogs to feed 250 participants twice over.)

Clark’s Market provided the sandwiches; the Snowmass Village Rotary and Alpine Bank also sponsored the event.

The love for Town Clean Up Day’s collective spirit spans multiple generations — even for those who may have been reluctant at first. Jessica Coxon, who has been helping out since 2013, has inherited her mom Rhonda’s enthusiasm.

“At first she forced me into it,” Jessica joked. “And then I started doing it because I enjoyed the community part of it.”

It was a family affair for the Gustafson clan, too: Kalli Gustafson Sinclair joined her sister Sonya Gustafson Ferguson and Sonya’s daughter Evelyn Ferguson to cover a stretch of Owl Creek Road, Fairway Drive and the East Brush Creek Nature Trail. (Sister Britta Gustafson, a columnist for the Snowmass Sun, was at work at sustainable food nonprofit the Farm Collaborative.)

“The ’leave no trace’ thing was embedded in our upbringing,” Sinclair said. The sisters grew up in Snowmass; they’ve been participating in Town Clean Up Days for years.

With gusto, 4-year-old Evelyn was catching on fast, too, calling out her finds with an enthusiastic “Trash!” every time she spotted a bit of plastic on the ground. She was already embracing the idea of leaving the town — and the planet — a little bit better than she found it.

“I think the earth is feeling more better now,” she said.