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Church group makes clean sweep of Canalway Trail Efforts in Lockport win statewide honors

If users of the Erie Canalway Trail think the one-mile stretch between the Lockport locks and the Joseph J. Villella Bridge is especially clean, they have the members of Lockport's First Presbyterian Church to thank.

The church was honored last week at the New York State Canal Conference with the Canalway Trail Tender Award for its outstanding cleanup efforts.

"We agreed to pick up trash and litter and report vandalism," said Lisa Seiler, one of the leaders of the cleanup crew. The church signed a two-year agreement last year with the New York State Canal Corp. under its Adopt-a-Trail program.

"I saw a sign for a Boy Scout troop that had adopted a trail," Seiler said when asked where the idea came from.

But her husband, J.D. Seiler, said it was a natural for a faith-based community.

"God has asked us to be good stewards of His creation," he said.

The First Presbyterian team cleans up the trail about three times a year, with the first outing of the year, on Earth Day in April, usually drawing about 40 people. Subsequent sessions involve about 20 people, Lisa Seiler said.

Kim Seekins, a member of the group, said she likes "the satisfaction of a job well done. I'm teaching my kids to be responsible."

"It's the kids who do most of the work," said James H. Garber, another member of the congregation.

Lisa Seiler said children receive a reward at the end of the day -- a wheelbarrow ride once the trash is emptied into bags and left in Upson Park, along the trail, for state crews to collect.

The Canal Corp. supplies trash bags and gloves for the Earth Day "Clean Sweep," but on other days, the cleanup crew is on its own for supplies.

The church's efforts began in April 2007 with a memorable event.

A German shepherd, missing for about 10 days, was found swimming in the canal. The dog's owners had just about given up hope, J.D. Seiler said.

"Kim [Seekins] had given us these big heavy gloves to pick up garbage, and 10 minutes later I had my hands in [the dog's] mouth trying to keep him from biting me," J.D. Seiler said.

The dog, named Angel, was brought ashore and returned to his family.

"My wife pulled a snake from under a rock," Garber recalled. "I put it up on the hill."

When not encountering wildlife, the crew finds an assortment of refuse.

"We've had some pretty big things -- marine batteries, a rotary phone," Seekins said.

"We found an HDTV," J.D. Seiler reported, adding, "It wasn't high definition; it was high destruction. It had a big hole in it."

Garber's grandchildren -- Alex Flint, 8, and Nate Flint, 6 -- said they enjoy the cleanup work.

"I clean up every room at home," Nate said.

"That's not me," Alex admitted.

But, asked about cleaning up along the canal, he said, "That, I like."


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