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Local Group Aims to Beautify the City

Photography Provided by Carmel Cleanup Crew

CleanupA simple idea involving the picking up of trash to help the environment has blossomed into a community group, whose goal is to beautify the local area by planting 10,000 trees over the next 10 years. The Carmel Cleanup Crew was founded by Carmel City Councilman Miles Nelson and his 13-year-old daughter Olivia. This fall the group partnered with Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation (CCPR) and held two tree-planting events.

“I am an environmentalist,” Nelson says. “The Carmel Cleanup Crew began when Olivia shared her concerns about the environment with me. We felt that one small way we could help was going out on Saturday mornings to pick up trash in the community. During the spring and summer of 2019, Olivia posted on Facebook and, weather permitting, invited others to join us. Adults, families and kids showed up who were working towards the common goal of making a difference in a small way. Many became friends and helped me campaign when I was running for City Council.”

As the group grew, Nelson began receiving phone calls from residents informing him about areas that needed trash picked up. Eventually the group attracted the interest of local television station Fox 59. Olivia was interviewed for a segment that aired in August of 2019.

This year the group continued trash pickup sessions, and also collaborated with CCPR to kick off their work toward planting 10,000 trees. Invasive species such as Canada thistle and honeysuckle were removed from two park areas. The group then planted trees native to Indiana, such as oak and sycamore.

CleanupSo far, nearly 160 trees have been planted. Last October, in conjunction with the United Nations World Habitat Day, the group met at the Vera J. Hinshaw Nature Preserve along Monon Greenway north of 96th Street, and put 120 saplings in the ground. The second planting was held later that month when 40 trees were planted at Founders Park.

“As a dad, I was trying to think of how I could make my daughter feel better about her fear and discomfort over the climate crisis,” Nelson says. “I thought about a poster I had seen of dying starfish that had washed up on a shore. A boy was throwing one back into the sea, saying, ‘I can’t save them all but I can save this one.’ Maybe we can’t fix the planet today, but we can pick up trash and plant trees.”

So far Nelson has funded the project on his own. At a cost of $2 to $4 per tree, the final dollar amount needed for the 10-year initiative is estimated to fall between $25,000 and $30,000. A GoFundMe campaign has been established to help raise funds for saplings and supplies. Search “10,000 Trees in Carmel Campaign” on GoFundMe.com to view the campaign page and to donate.

For more information on the Carmel Cleanup Crew, visit facebook.com/CarmelCleanupCrew.

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