The sun shone brightly on April, but it was volunteers of all ages who provided the energy for Summit's fifth annual Earth Day Clean Up on Saturday.
Organized by the Environmental Commission, the ecologically minded event took place in five Hill City parks: Briant, Hidden Valley, Martin's Brook, Passaic River, and Wilson.
With a soundtrack of honking geese in the background at Briant Park, Commission member and master arborist John Kilby said that getting rid of litter and debris was only part of the day's goal.
"The biggest problem I am taking on is dead vines overtaking the leaves," explained Kilby, who also sits on the commision's Shade Tree Committee. "The EC has young trees to place along the banks of Briant Park, so we need to clear out the vines."
Helping Kilby with vine eradication were a team of volunteers from area Timberland shoe stores, whose workers are required to participate in community service activities.
"Timberland donates more than 200,000 hours of employee community service all over the world," said Abdo Mohamed, manager of the Garden State Plaza store branch. "We're real happy to help out with the clean up and if they need us again, we'll be there."
Amy Cairns Harrison, who chairs the Environmental Commission, said she's grateful for Timberland's support.
"We have gotten help from a number of companies like Goldman Sachs," she said, "but we don't hear a lot from retail establishments. I think it's really cool."
Other volunteers came from area schools. A number of eighth graders gave up their Saturday morning to help pick up trash and recyclables at Briant and Wilson parks. Twelve year old Christopher Dugan, who attends the Pingry School, was one of them.
"Keeping the park clean helps the environment," Dugan said, adding that he and the other eighth grade volunteers earn school community service credits for participating.
Even younger kids took part: Third graders from the Brayton School's Brownie Troop 41176 donated their time to help clean up East Summit's Hidden Valley Park.
"We collected four bags of trash," Lily Neilan reported. Her fellow troop members enthusiastically recounted other treasures and not-quite-treasures they discovered, among them a golf ball, a typewriter, and a worm that the girls named "Wormy Jr."
Over at Martin's Brook Park, beer cans left by teenagers were the primary litter to be found, said Ellen Purcell, secretary of the Washington Area Association. The WAA, a collective of residents in the area near the Washington School and Tatlock Park took the tiny patch of woods under its wing in 2003.
"We started cleaning up Martin's Brook Park two years before it became an official Summit park," Purcell said. "It's a lovely little place." She reported that about 30 people turned out to help with the clean up effort, including members of New Providence Boy Scout Troop 1.
Another clean up effort was held at Passaic River Park and its transfer station, right near the Summit-Chatham border. According to Harrison, Dr. Jeff Hankinson, an area dentist, was leading the cleaning campaign there.
"He helps out a great deal every year," she said.
Priya Patil, an commission member who organized much of this year's Earth Day celebration, said that the 2011 event was about more than merely picking up litter.
"We wanted to have a creative aspect to the event," she said. "This year, the project entailed constructing brush piles for birds and other wildlife." Brush piles offer animals dense cover that they can use as a hiding place when being chased by a predator or as shelter from harsh weather.
Harrison added that the yearly event appeals to many of those who have demanding work schedules. "It gets lots of people who don't have time to during the year doing something that's positive and green," she said.
The Earth Day Clean Up is just the start of Summit's celebration of all things green. Also on tap is the return of the Summit Free Market, an event that gives Hilltoppers an opportunity to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Community members will be welcome to exchange usable items on April 30, May 7, and May 14 at the City of Summit Transfer Station, 40 New Providence Ave. Market hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.summitfreemarket.org.