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13th Annual Earth Day Event: "Water is Our Way of Life”

Enviro Kid made a special appearance and took part in the morning stretch along with Jr. Miss Salt River Sialik King (left).

On Saturday, April 22, more than 1 billion people worldwide celebrated Earth Day, including 650 volunteers and employees here in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

The theme for the 13th annual Earth Day event was “Water Is Our Way of Life,” and it was sponsored by the SRPMIC Community Development Department-Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Division, and Public Works Department.

Each year the popular event draws hundreds of volunteers who assist in a wide variety of Community cleanup activities such as painting standpipes, picking up trash, planting plants and making seed balls.

Master of ceremonies for the morning program, Amy Miguel, senior environmental specialist–enforcement/compliance, said Earth Day is something special to the O’odham and Piipaash people, “because this is who we are, this is part of our Community to take care of the land and preserve it for generations to come.”

Miguel told the crowd, “Not only are we celebrating [Earth Day] today, but [we are joining] with all the other citizens from different countries. This is a global effort that you are part of today.”

SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier offered the morning prayer. “It’s good to see everyone here. I really want to thank everyone who organized the event,” Harvier said. He also thanked the vendors and sponsors.

Rachel Seepie from the Diabetes Fitness Program got everyone warmed up with some stretches before they headed out to their assigned areas.

Planning for the Earth Day celebration began in January, when CDD-EPNR and Public Works teams came up with ideas for the day and evaluated what specific cleanup work needed to be done around the Community.

The Public Works Department has been a joint sponsor of the Community’s Earth Day cleanup event for the last few years, in lieu of also observing National Public Works Week, which occurs every May.

Kirk Beaty, director of Public Works, said, “First, a lot of what the Public Works Department does each day corresponds with the spirit of Earth Day. Collecting trash and recyclables, planting and maintaining trees and vegetation, removing graffiti, and producing clean drinking water are some of the duties of the Public Works Department that create a better environment and a better Earth. You might say that Earth Day is every day at Public Works.”

This year, National Public Works Week is May 21-27. In the past, the Public Works Department tried holding a separate awareness fair at the end of the month, but attendance was sparse due to the heat and competing events such as graduations and Earth Day. That was when Public Works partnered with CDD.

Public Works had many information booths set up and staff members available to answer questions.

Other groups staffing information booths included the Phoenix Indian Center, Salt River Materials Group, Audubon Arizona, SRPMIC Transportation, the Apprenticeship Training Program (carpentry) and many others.

After completing their various cleanup assignments, participants were invited to take part in a number of activities such as painting planters and rocks, visiting the petting zoo, or getting up close to a rescued eagle. You may have also seen Willie the miniature horse walking around and greeting visitors.

During the rain and winds earlier this year, the vato near the Huhugam Ki Museum was damaged. On Earth Day, a group of men got the poles up and had to wait for the cement to dry before placing the roof on the structure.

The day wrapped up with lunch and a raffle.

“We first would like to thank the Community Council for supporting the Earth Day event each year,” said Chris Horan, EPNR manager. “We also thank all of the Community Development Department and Public Works staff who worked tirelessly to make the event a success, and the Community members, SRPMIC staff and guests who came out to celebrate Earth Day with us. Last but not least, we wholeheartedly thank our wonderful sponsors, especially the Salt River Community Children’s Foundation, because without them we wouldn’t be able to put on such a grand event.”

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