Lloyd Davies of Marion is once again in the midst of a familiar guessing game that he’s played each of the past 13 years: How many volunteers will participate in this year’s cleanup day at Marion Reservoir?
“Lots of times I just don’t know who’s going to show up,” he said. “I’d love to have as many as we can get. Last year was great. We had close to 60 volunteers altogether. Other times we’ve had 15 to 30. Sometimes we just get an off day.”
Cleanup Day is April 23, and while scouring the shores for fishing line, cans, Styrofoam, and other assorted trash will be the order of the day, Davies will welcome the chance to be outdoors.
“It’s just kind of cool being out there,” he said. “It’s my chance to go play. Everybody says, ‘Oh, isn’t this great, you’re helping the environment.’ Yes, but I just like to play outside.”
It’s a theme that began in childhood for Davies, when he spent countless hours exploring nature and collecting things.
“My brother and I had like a museum in the upstairs of the garage,” he said. “We had skulls and snapping turtle shells and bugs. We’d invite the neighbor kids over. We were always dragging something home.”
Born in Marion but raised in Lawrence and Olathe, Davies majored in biology and English at Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina.
Coupled with experience from a chance opportunity as a technical writer for a software firm, Davies’ educational and career paths eventually led to a job in technical services with the library system in Johnson County.
In 1991, Davies decided to volunteer for Lakeside Nature Center in Kansas City, Missouri, where he and a friend were asked to lead a cleanup effort.
“They adopted 7 miles of the Blue River through Swope Park and Kansas City Zoo,” Davies said. “It just exploded. Within two years we had over 2,500 volunteers. It’s still going huge.”
Still going, too, is his relationship with a former Lakeside volunteer with an affinity for rescuing animals, his wife, Robin.
“When I first met her, she had baby grackles, baby mourning doves, and baby possums all in her apartment,” Davies said.
He surprised her with a marriage proposal at a Lakeside meeting.
“I was head of Stream Team and she was head of events,” Davies said. “I got up in the meeting and said ‘Is there anything in the bylaws that exempts committee chairmen from marrying?’ I can still see Robin’s face. She sits there and then the light bulb came on.”
They moved to Marion in 1998 with children Nicholas and Samantha, and Davies opened Great Plains Computers and Networking.
“I thought, ‘Well, I could make a living doing this,’” he said, “but I still wanted to do Stream Team.”
Davies said the Missouri-based program is similar to that for dealing with highway litter.
“You can adopt waterways and you can do whatever amount you want to do and they provide help,” he said.
Kansas didn’t have a similar program, but Missouri Stream Team welcomed Davies as a partner. The ongoing relationship has provided gloves, informational items, volunteer training, and incentive for volunteers to support his efforts at Marion Reservoir.
While last year’s effort included students from Peabody-Burns schools and Tabor College planting about 1,500 trees, Cleanup Day will again focus on collecting unsightly, polluting, and dangerous trash.
“One of the big things is the dang fishing line,” Davies said. “That’s hell on birds. It wraps around their legs. You get fishing line around a goose, a duck, or a pelican, and it kills them off.”
Davies plans to focus on areas that experience has taught him are always in need.
“We need more volunteers to do a complete coverage each year,” he said. “If I had closer to 60-80 each year we could cover a lot of ground.”
Maggie Schroeder and her son, Brody, 14, and twin daughters Emma and Mallory, 11, are volunteers Davies can count on. He said that Schroeder has volunteered at all but one Cleanup Day.
“The first year I went, I saw it in the newspaper, and I think my son was a year old,” Schroeder said. “I didn’t take him that year, but I took him the next year, and we’ve been going ever since. It’s a tradition the kids and I started. When we find out when it is, we’re excited to go.”
Schroeder said she enjoys working with Davies.
“We get a kick out of Lloyd,” she said. “He’s fun to work with and he cares.”
The Schroeders have returned year after year because of the benefits Maggie sees in volunteering.
“It’s good for the environment, it’s good for our community,” she said. “I think it’s a good thing to teach kids what kind of things can harm animals and birds, and how to take care of things. I hope I’ve instilled that in my children.”
Davies said the Schroeders’ experience of the event is just what he’s looking for.
“The biggest benefit, hands down, and this goes clear back to 1991, is that if you get people out there clear back to the kids and they go and clean something up, they own it, and then they fight for it,” he said. “I’ve seen that over and over again. That’s probably the coolest thing.”
Volunteers can register by calling (620) 382-2006 or (620) 382-2101, or emailing email@example.com. Walk-ups also are welcome the day of the event, which begins at 9 a.m. at the Corps of Engineers office and goes until 1 p.m.
Event sponsors include Tampa State Bank, Mudpuppies Missouri Stream Team #2642, Marion Reservoir WRAPS, Army Corps of Engineers, and Great Plains Computers and Networking.