Earth Day got an early start in West Seneca on Saturday.
On a perfect, sun-dappled day, a small, committed group of volunteers with work gloves, rakes and wheelbarrows helped beautify Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center.
Commanding much of their attention was a pile of vinyl strips dumped some time ago into a southeast section of the 29-acre park.
"It seems like a whole house of siding back there," said Carrie Smith, a conservation coordinator with the Burchfield center. "It's been there so long that roots are growing around it, and it's become embedded in the earth."
The cleanup was sponsored by the Burchfield Center and West Seneca AmeriCorps, whose motto is, "Your world, your chance to make it better." Both are housed near the park's entrance.
On Friday, about 70 AmeriCorps members and recruited volunteers helped clean up Gallagher Beach.
Among the items removed Saturday from the 4-year-old West Seneca park and playground were decomposing Styrofoam, alcohol and water bottles, diapers, a shopping cart, take-out food boxes and coffee cups.
Lynn Gibbons of West Seneca was on her hands and knees, pulling vinyl from the moist soil among a stand of poplar trees. Helping was her father, Art Zucker of East Aurora.
"It's a good opportunity for everyone to help clean up the community," Gibbons said.
Two 17-year-old West Seneca West High Schoolers, Kyle Dietz and Kevin Postulka, were receiving community service hours from their school for their efforts.
"I'm probably going to come back week after week, because it's really a shame that people throw stuff like this in the woods," Kyle said. "People should realize we don't have a lot of places like this in town."
Volunteer Sharon Siracuse said she made a point each year of doing something to honor Earth Day, which began on April 22, 1970. She expressed concern about the loss of open space and a recent U.S. Senate vote to allow drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Siracuse also said she hopes more citizens would consider how their personal decisions affect the Earth.
"I think people need to step back and ask, 'Do I really need that extra plastic bag? Do I really need to drive the car to the store when it's only a block and a half away?' "
Her sentiment was shared by Smith. "Every day should be Earth Day," she said.
On Thursday and Friday, the actual Earth Day, AmeriCorps members will help clean up and build a new pathway in Lein Road Cemetery in West Seneca.