by Dani Kramer, Land-based Program Coordinator
On April 30th, 22 cyclists arrived at a parking lot in McKeesport with bicycles and camping gear. They were met by the DumpBusters crew of Allegheny CleanWays- an organization that engages and empowers people to eliminate litter and illegal dumping in Allegheny County. Their goal for the weekend was to clean up trash, ride bikes together, and have a good time outdoors. It was TriTrashLon.
TriTrashLon began in 2021 as a way for the bike-packing community of Pittsburgh to get together and give back to the city of McKeesport- an oft-overlooked town on the route of the Great Allegheny Passage. Nearly a million cyclists enjoy this trail every year, but too few actually stop in McKeesport to appreciate its rich history, varied geography, and reviving waterfront. The event was a success- 20 people spent three hours cleaning up trash, tires, and debris from an abandoned garage and then set off on the trail to camp and celebrate. The return of TriTrashLon in 2022 had a similar goal- but this time, we spent the evening enjoying the Montour Trail.
Nearly all of the participants this year reported to have never spent time on the Montour Trail and were pleasantly surprised! The ride from the cleanup location in McKeesport to the trailhead in Clairton gave a new perspective on the region to the group of cyclists who primarily reside in Pittsburgh. The weather on day one was in our favor, and we enjoyed the sights and sounds of spring along the trail- red-winged blackbirds sang, trillium blossomed, Peters Creek burbled and glittered in the midday sun. The Campground was beautiful- a fire pit, roomy Adirondack shelter, and plenty of space for tents and hammocks. A whole new route to explore was introduced to the TriTrashletes!
Cleanup on day one was a massive success. The volunteers and crew removed over 8,000 pounds of trash and 60 tires from the 10th ward of McKeesport. Household trash, renovation debris, plastics, electronics, and vegetation debris were all swiftly and safely cleaned up from two lots on Gross Street, filling up two dumpsters much faster than expected! Admittedly, it’s the fault of the program coordinator that the incredible power of teamwork was underestimated. So, when the dumpsters were full, we changed tactics and filled bags with litter. A smashing success and a beautiful expression of neighborly love and care from a visiting group of Pittsburghers to McKeesport.
In addition to the hard work and cooperation of the volunteer participants, the event was a success thanks to the supporting partners of Allegheny CleanWays. The Montour Trail Council reserved the gorgeous campsite for the group, as well as providing extra bathroom facilities and alerting local authorities to our planned presence. Financial support came from The East End Food Co-op, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, Thick Bikes, and Fern Hollow Bikes. A delicious vegan lunch was generously prepared and donated by Black Radish Kitchen. A variety of excellent camp beer was provided by Cinderlands (thank you to the Montour Trail Council for allowing the responsible consumption of hard-earned beer at the campsite). Three Rivers Outdoor Company opened their doors to the TriTrashLon gang to meet up in advance of the event to hang out, shop, and wrench on each other’s bikes.
A single person with the will to do good can do great things for the environment. But the transformative power of collaboration should never be underestimated! TriTrashLon 2022 was a wonderful example of the cumulative effect of teamwork and the joy of community. Every crew member, volunteer, and supporting partner was crucial to the success of TriTrashLon. We made friends, we cleaned up trash, and we got some fresh air and sunshine thanks to all parties involved! We’ve shown once again that the cycling community in our city is full of warm, welcoming people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work together for the good of others.
TriTrashLon 2023 will surely be even bigger and better as we learn and improve. However, we’re sure that it won’t be a full year before we see some cyclists load up their camp gear and hit the trails to clean up trash and improve their surroundings along the way. After all, the campsite rule is to leave things better than you found them!
Thank you again to all our partners and participants. What a wonderful way to spend a weekend!