Denver, CO

Earth Day is looking different this year, but some annual traditions stay the same in Denver

Steven Bonifazi

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(Courtesy of LoDo Cares)

By Steven Bonifazi

(DENVER, Colo.) Community volunteer organization LoDo Cares is hosting their annual Earth Day Cherry Creek Clean-Up Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Rothman Children's Playground to support Earth Day and engage residents of LoDo.

LoDo Cares was launched in 1991 by the Lower Downtown Historic District (LoDo) as a philanthropic arm in coordination with the residential side of LoDoNA (LoDo Neighborhood Association). LoDo Cares supports a multitude of organizations, however, the Earth Day Cherry Creek clean-up is more so an event that will initiate environmental clean-ups in the summer that take place bi-weekly on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

"We're trying to find activities to support Earth Day and engage residents of LoDo," said Kathy Gentry, board member of LoDoNA and LoDo Cares. "When we do these things, we not only want to protect the environment and engage our neighbors but it kind of enhances liveability".

This year's Earth Day looks different than previous years as the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled many celebrations, such as the traditional in-person Lakewood Earth Day Celebration at Heritage Lakewood. Nevertheless, the city has allowed LoDo Cares to hold the Earth Day Cherry Creek clean-up as it will be socially distanced, with volunteers being required to wear masks and gloves.

The city is attempting to keep people in groups of ten in order to socially distance with one another. Fortunately, Cherry Creek stretches far along the south side of the neighborhood.

The Colorado Times Recorder reports that advocates for climate change joined state legislators Monday at the state Capitol to discuss the demand for environmental justice and climate legislation in the state. The legislators and advocates were met alongside an ice sculpture of the globe, symbolizing how climate change will alter the planet forever.

“We’re here celebrating Earth Day and the planet, but it is a cold day. We were hoping for the optics of that melting,” said Ean Thomas-Tafoya, a climate activist and co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum. “We do want to acknowledge that weather is not the same as climate. Science has told us that there is no doubt we are heading in the wrong direction when it comes to climate change.”

Those who decide to volunteer their time picking up trash with LoDo Cares Saturday will be provided refreshments and food in the form of coffee and breakfast burritos. Volunteers will also be required to sign a liability waiver when they arrive at Rothman Children's Playground located at Speer and Wynkoop so that LoDo Cares can contact them if anyone present Thursday contracts COVID-19.

The Earth Day Cherry Creek clean-up is just one that LoDo Cares takes part in, in addition to Showers for All, a mobile trailer that has two full bathrooms, showers, washers and dryers that provide homeless people the opportunity to bathe and have their clothes laundered. Additionally, LoDo Cares works with a senior assisted living center, the Barth Hotel and Denver Parks and Recreation, among many others.

"When I came to LoDo district in January of last year, I saw there was a lot of interest in philanthropy but not a lot of awareness around the programming that the LoDo district was offering," said John Wetenkamp, director of operations at LoDo District, Inc. "During the pandemic when a lot of community-based nonprofits became more consolidated, we tried to expand our brand and programming through community-based events such as this. Building relationships in the community wasn’t something I’ve been able to do in person since I’ve been here, so that's another reason we wanted to promote this event, to get people out and connect with people in the community."

The bags filled by volunteers on Thursday will be picked up by Denver Parks and Recreation staff after the clean-up. The bi-weekly summer clean-ups not only work to help the environment but also work to bring the community closer together.

"What we also try to do with summer clean-ups is provide a great opportunity for businesses to do team-building," said Gentry. "We will get their group down on a Friday morning before work and give them a chance to pick up trash together and feel good about the community they work in."

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