Valley Parents: Navigators group organizes Earth Day cleanup in Croydon

From left, Audie McKeon, 7, Olivia Eisel, 9, Styg Trombley, 6, Jacob Trombley, Maia McKeon, 4, Kristi McKeon and Jen Eisel, all of Croydon, N.H., eat strawberries as they hand out trash bags and vests before an Earth Day cleanup organized by their Navigators USA chapter at the fire station in Croydon on Saturday, April 20, 2024. The scouts spoke at a selectboard meeting and got the town to donate trash bags and latex gloves for the cleanup. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From left, Audie McKeon, 7, Olivia Eisel, 9, Styg Trombley, 6, Jacob Trombley, Maia McKeon, 4, Kristi McKeon and Jen Eisel, all of Croydon, N.H., eat strawberries as they hand out trash bags and vests before an Earth Day cleanup organized by their Navigators USA chapter at the fire station in Croydon on Saturday, April 20, 2024. The scouts spoke at a selectboard meeting and got the town to donate trash bags and latex gloves for the cleanup. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Styg Trombley, 6, of Croydon, N.H., climbs up an embankment with his bag of trash in tow during an Earth Day cleanup on Pine Hill Road in Croydon on Saturday, April 20, 2024. Trombley and his fellow Navigators spent the morning scavenging for garbage, mostly cans and bottles, in the woods along the road. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Styg Trombley, 6, of Croydon, N.H., climbs up an embankment with his bag of trash in tow during an Earth Day cleanup on Pine Hill Road in Croydon on Saturday, April 20, 2024. Trombley and his fellow Navigators spent the morning scavenging for garbage, mostly cans and bottles, in the woods along the road. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america — Alex Driehaus

Geny Eisel, 6, of Croydon, N.H., picks up a discarded can during an Earth Day cleanup organized by her Navigators USA chapter in Croydon on Saturday, April 20, 2024. The Navigators participate in community service and earn badges for activities the children express interest in, like shelter building and wilderness first aid. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Geny Eisel, 6, of Croydon, N.H., picks up a discarded can during an Earth Day cleanup organized by her Navigators USA chapter in Croydon on Saturday, April 20, 2024. The Navigators participate in community service and earn badges for activities the children express interest in, like shelter building and wilderness first aid. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

From left, Styg Trombley, 6, Jacob Trombley, Kennedy Beard, Owen Beard, 13, Maia McKeon, 4, and Aaron McKeon, all of Croydon, N.H., pick up trash along Pine Hill Road in Croydon on Saturday, April 20, 2024. Members of the Croydon Fire Department we on hand for traffic control during the cleanup. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From left, Styg Trombley, 6, Jacob Trombley, Kennedy Beard, Owen Beard, 13, Maia McKeon, 4, and Aaron McKeon, all of Croydon, N.H., pick up trash along Pine Hill Road in Croydon on Saturday, April 20, 2024. Members of the Croydon Fire Department we on hand for traffic control during the cleanup. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america photographs — Alex Driehaus

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 05-28-2024 11:10 AM

CROYDON — Communities around the world collected tons of trash on beaches, in the woods, along roads, among other locations to mark the 54th annual Earth Day in mid-April.

Contributing to the efforts for a cleaner planet was a small group of youngsters with the recently formed Navigators USA chapter in Croydon. With energy and enthusiasm, they scoured the woods along Pine Hill Road, picking up dirty bottles, cans and other debris and dropping it all into trash bags they carried with them.

“I want the Earth to be clean for the next generation of children,” Olivia Eisel, 9, said, when asked why collecting trash was important. “We are doing this so the Earth is not a junk box.”

With adult leaders, Kristi and Aaron McKeon, Jen Eisel and Jacob Trombly, the half-dozen children scrambled up and down a steep embankment off Pine Hill several times in search of trash.

“They are used to running and playing in the woods,” Aaron McKeon said.

Patience Trombly, 9, her bag filled a lot of cans and plastic bottles, had a message for the litterers.

“Stop throwing your trash in the woods because it is destroying the environment,” Patience said.

Navigators USA began in New York City in 2003 and bills itself as an alternative to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. It has chapters around the country and each is structured to fit the interests of the children.

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It is similar to scouting as the members work toward earning badges and do community service, Kristi McKeon said. The Croydon chapter has seven members, ages 5 to 10.

“They have earned their wilderness first aid and safety badges already,” McKeon said. “We are doing a survivor’s badge now and they are learning how to safely camp; if they get lost, how to be found; how to build a shelter and filter water. We will be going all summer and will follow their interests.”

The Earth Day Cleanup on April 20 — two days before the official Earth Day — was the Navigators first community service project.

McKeon said every year Croydon residents do their part cleaning the roads on their own, but she said this year the Navigators wanted to facilitate a town-wide cleanup.

“We are the ones who put out the fliers and said let’s all come together today and clean up the town,” she said.

Olivia Eisel spoke for the group at a Selectboard meeting and got the board to donate latex gloves and trash bags. The Croydon Fire Department helped with traffic control along Pine Hill. Other smaller groups of residents cleaned up Croydon Brook Road and Reeds Mill Road.

Before they started their work on a cool and cloudy morning, the Navigators gathered at the Croydon Fire Station where some children fueled up at the Fire Department’s pancake breakfast. A little after 10 a.m., the group drove a short distance to the Pine Hill and Cash Street intersection. The Navigators went right to work.

This was not solely a roadside effort. Most went down the embankment along the road and several yards into the woods in search of trash.

Owen Beard, 13, who was helping the Navigators with his mother Allie, hauled a decaying plastic bag filled with trash up to the road. Rusting steel posts, six tires, a fender, power lines and a claw portion of a rake were among the items pulled from the woods as the group slowly made its way up Pine Hill Road.

Dagny McKeon, 9, said throwing trash in the woods is “stupid” and made no sense to her.

“I just don’t know why they do it,” Dagny said. But she knew why she was helping.

“It cleans up the environment and helps the habitat for the animals.”

After about an hour, the Navigators had covered a few hundred yards and already filled about a dozen, 13 gallon trash bags. The steep climb up Pine Hill Road lay ahead but the enthusiasm to clean up the town did not wane. Spotting a bottle here, a can there or something partially hidden by leaves, they raced to grab it.

The Navigators worked about three hours, covered more than two and a half miles of road and filled more than 100 bags, Aaron McKeon said.

They did it with one goal in mind, Genny Eisel, 6, said.

“We want to keep Croydon clean.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.