Last Saturday, 120 people from the Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ area found themselves in the unlikely position of being consumed by mud from below, and drenched by rain from above.
Plastic ponchos were given out, and individuals who’d been roughly human-shaped their whole lives were suddenly transformed into large blue flying squirrels.
Soon, the people picking up the garbage became nearly indistinguishable from the garbage itself. And still they worked, until 10,151 pounds of trash was scraped from the banks of the Cooper River.
How does a person create an account for a GPS treasure hunt game and end up cleaning up a muddy river on a rainy April morning?
A CITO — or Cache In Trash Out® event — is a type of geocache. But…instead of using an app or GPS to find a hidden container, you’ll need to attend a CITO event in order to be able to claim the geocache “find”. CITO events aim to improve the geocaching game board (Earth) by bringing people together to pick up trash, remove invasive species, restore greenspaces, or build trails. It’s geocaching’s ongoing environmental initiative, which people can participate in year round.
Last week’s CITO was hosted by ODragon, a veteran CITO organizer, Community Volunteer Reviewer, and 12-year geocacher. For the fourth year in a row, ODragon tacked his CITO event on to a large community cleanup organized by United By Blue. The apparel company puts on community events all over the United States (find one near you), out of which any geocacher can create a CITO event.
ODragon estimates roughly a third of the 120 attendees were there because of his CITO listing. And attendees at this event got more than they’d bargained for, in many ways. All cleanup supplies were provided, and the United By Blue organizers took care of disposing of all the collected garbage. Everyone who attended got t-shirts free of charge, as well as pizza for lunch.
CITO attendee and geocacher GerIRL said,
I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but after 11+ years of geocaching, this is only my 1st ever CITO attended. I promise – I’ll try to do better over the next 11+ years! Anyway, I perused all the NJ CITO’s, and decided to drive the 80 minutes down the turnpike to come here. It was really a lot of fun – the weather was nasty, rainy and chilly, but I wore my waders and went on tire patrol, pulling out 5 tires from the tidal mud flats. Then I grabbed some bags to pick up regular trash. I was really impressed at the turnout – there must have been about a hundred people who volunteered. I waited for the weigh-in, and left before the pizza arrived. 10,000+ lbs of trash is amazing. The park looks a whole lot better now than it did yesterday. Thanks to ‘O for organizing.”
The cleanup was cut short when a geocacher pulled a human skull out of the mud. The police were called, the skull confiscated, and the area roped off with police tape. Logs on the cache page are littered with similar sentiment: “We hope that this find brings closure to someone somewhere.”
Despite the turn for the dark and grisly, ODragon says this is his most successful CITO cleanup event yet, in terms of pounds of trash removed and number of attendees at a Cooper River event. And for that reason, Cooper River Cleanup is the first ever CITO Geocache of the Week!
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