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Esky cleanup organizers, founder look back

Trash is shown on Escanaba’s Ludington Street Wednesday. Volunteers are planning to clean up the downtown and other parts of the city during the annual Esky Cleanup May 17-22. The event has been held for nearly a decade. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Ilsa Minor)

ESCANABA — For nearly a decade, residents of Escanaba have helped clean up Ludington Street and beyond as part of a popular local event. With Esky Cleanup coming up May 17-22, the event’s organizers — and its founder, Todd Beauchamp — are looking back at its history.

At the time Esky Cleanup was created, Beauchamp owned U.P. PC Repair on Ludington Street. The business’ office was located on the street’s 1200 block, near Ferdinand’s Mexican Restaurant.

“Gregory — the [Ferdinand’s] owner — and I would always be outside cleaning … we thought ‘hmm, Escanaba is such a beautiful place.’ We both felt it could be a lot better,” Beauchamp said.

The event was also inspired by Beauchamp’s childhood memories of living in Hardwood, Mich.

“Our whole family used to get together, and we would have a community cleanup that was sponsored by the VFW … that’s where this idea came from,” he said.

In the event’s first year, Beauchamp said about a dozen volunteers from Pathways Community Mental Health helped to clean up a few blocks on Ludington Street. Though it got off to a somewhat slow start, he had big plans for the future.

“From there, I decided that we would expand it … we would do the entire downtown and turn it into a big community event,” Beauchamp said.

These plans paid off almost immediately. Beauchamp said local involvement with the event began to increase soon after the first time it was held.

“I guess after the first year, we realized there were a lot of people that wanted to help — they just needed an organized opportunity,” he said.

As a result of growing participation in the event, the amount of trash that has been removed by volunteers has consistently increased each year. By 2020, participants were able to dispose of more than 10,000 pounds of garbage.

“Every year, the total weight we picked up went up. Last year, before COVID hit, we had about 400 volunteers and we picked up over 14,000 pounds of debris in just one day,” Beauchamp said.

Though it had started as a small-scale grassroots activity, it became apparent to those involved with Esky Cleanup that it had become a major event. A board of directors was formed in 2018.

“When it started to get to that size, we realized we needed to form an official non-profit and organize with an official board of directors … we wanted to ensure the efficacy and the future success of the event,” Mark Ammel said. Ammel is a member of Esky Cleanup’s board of directors and the owner of Bobaloon’s Café.

While Esky Cleanup initially focused on Ludington Street, Ammel said its geographical scope has grown along with participation numbers.

“We’re evolving this into a community clean-up effort to make our community the best and the brightest it can be,” he said.

Ammel expressed his appreciation to Beauchamp for making it possible for the event to become what it is today.

“His passion to provide an opportunity for all residents to take part in a movement that can improve the image of our community have made (Escanaba) a more appealing place for tourists to enjoy and helped it become a hometown we can be proud of,” he said.

Though Beauchamp is no longer involved with the planning side of Esky Cleanup, Ammel said he has continued to be an active participant year after year.

“Todd’s the kind of guy that’s still going to be sweeping and raking and picking up trash. He won’t stop working,” Ammel said.

According to Beauchamp, service is an important value in his family. Esky Cleanup gives him and others a way to serve the local area.

“My father’s a World War II veteran, my older brother’s a veteran, I’m a veteran, and we all believe serving our country starts with serving our community and our neighbors,” he said.

Additionally, he encouraged people who are interested in Esky Cleanup to get involved this year.

“It’s a fantastic family event, and a great way to bring young and old together for the common good of our community,” Beauchamp said.

For 2021, Esky Cleanup has been scheduled for May 17-22 – marking the first time the event has been scheduled for multiple days. To learn more about this year’s event, find “Esky Cleanup” on Facebook.

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