Archive for Sunday, August 22, 2010

One-man cleanup effort impresses neighbors

Alan Welles started walking on Princeton Boulevard in northwest Lawrence to lose weight, but he soon grew bored. Welles now picks up trash every day during his two and a half hour walk on the boulevard from Iowa Street to Lawrence Avenue.

Alan Welles started walking on Princeton Boulevard in northwest Lawrence to lose weight, but he soon grew bored. Welles now picks up trash every day during his two and a half hour walk on the boulevard from Iowa Street to Lawrence Avenue.

August 22, 2010


One man makes daily walk into quest to clean up street

Alan Welles started his walk as a way to lose weight, but now he totes a trash bag along with him so he can keep the neighborhood spotless. Enlarge video

Diet and Litter Pickup Plan, by the numbers

Results of Alan Welles’ clean up project:


Plastic grocery bags filled with trash daily


Angry driver remarks since June 4


Miles walked each day


Pounds lost since starting June


Dollars and cents collected


Average bends performed


Calories burned each morning

Alan Welles is making Lawrence a better place every day.

For the past three months, Welles has taken it upon himself to rid his neighborhood street of trash.

But it didn’t start off as a community service for the 68-year-old Lawrence man — it started off as a way to lose weight.

Not wanting to give up his normal diet, Welles asked his doctor what he could do to start getting back in shape before his 50-year class reunion.

“He told me to walk,” Welles said.

So he started walking up and down his street, Princeton Boulevard in northwest Lawrence, every day. He became bored with the process almost immediately.

“Just walking seemed kind of boring,” Welles said. “It didn’t have a purpose.”

So Welles gave it a purpose. Every day now, rain or shine, Welles spends about two and a half hours cleaning the boulevard from Iowa Street to Lawrence Avenue.

On the first day of what he now refers to as the “Princeton Boulevard Diet and Litter Pickup Plan,” Welles filled an entire 13-gallon bag with trash.

Dale and Darlene Miller, both 78, live across the street from Welles and said they remembered what the neighborhood looked like before he moved in.

“It was trashy looking,” Darlene said. “You can sure tell a difference now because there’s not a speck of trash on our street.”

Welles can tell the difference, too. His morning cleaning, which involves bending, grabbing, reaching and dumping, now yields an average of three plastic grocery bags of trash each day.

And it’s been a learning experience. Welles has counted and averaged the litter he picks up to add understanding to his purpose. The highest volume trash days are Thursday and Friday. The easiest days are early in the week. Welles also noticed a sharp increase in the number of cigarette butts near Deerfield School on the first day of school, which he attributed to nervous parents.

“My daughter tells me I’m an urban scout because I notice these kinds of silly things,” Welles said.

So how is the plan working out for his health? Welles said his cholesterol is down, he feels better and has a lot more energy now than he used to. In three months, he’s lost six pounds.

“At this rate it’ll only take me another 25 years and I’ll be down at my high school or college weight,” he joked.

For Welles, it’s no longer just about losing weight. It’s also about the sense of pride he gets from keeping his street clean. The retiree considers his morning routine his job now, and smiles when he says Princeton Boulevard is the cleanest boulevard in Lawrence. Welles plans to keep things that way for a while.

“I’ll do this until I’m not capable of doing it anymore,” he said.

The Millers said they appreciated what he’d done for their street and would like to see good neighbors hang around.

“I hope he stays,” Darlene said. “I hope he lives over here for a long, long time.”


christy kennedy 7 years, 10 months ago

That's outstanding. Thanks for all your hard work. I hope it pays off health wise in a big way.

Sean Livingstone 7 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for the hardwork. But come back to reality... shame on those who threw those trash!

Eric Gruber 7 years, 10 months ago

I think this is great. I've also been doing this with my family (but not everyday, unfortunately). When we go on a walk, we take a trash bag along and then pick up stuff in our path. It's turned into a real teachable moment with our kids.

Alan, keep up the good work!

ontheroadfitness 7 years, 10 months ago

That's great! I used to see this gentleman every day on my way to work when I lived out in that area. A lot of people don't realize it, but walking really is a great way to lose weight!

greenquarter 7 years, 10 months ago

Good for him! I see him almost daily while walking my dogs and just last week actually used him as an example to my husband when describing the concept of "familiar strangers." Thank you for a much-needed service.

David Dunlap 7 years, 10 months ago

Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!! You are an inspiration, Alan. I hope more people will follow your lead both for your own health and the betterment of the community.

Joe Blackford II 7 years, 10 months ago

You sir, are a credit to your community!

I used to walk a similar distance @ day w/2 dogs, strictly picking up aluminum cans for recycling. UNTIL Manhattan's recycler would only pay for lbs totaling > what I collected between recycling trips (50, 100?). Imagine 125 lbs of smashed cans in the bed of a pickup = wife would only let me do that in wintertime. I used to work next to Busch's recycling center in St. Louis. Gave new aroma to summer breezes (malt & hops are preferable).

Mr. Welles' findings would likely correlate w/mine: H2O bottles > Al cans; glass largely liquor bottles; Kansans prefer Pepsi to Coke.

Most interesting finds: snake in can & mouse in can. Worst smelling cans: tobacco juice-filled. Now there's a catfish bait!

Nowadays, we use a recycling service. Dogs too old to keep up = new puppy (lost 8 lbs in first month!).

THANX Mr. Welles.

imagold 7 years, 10 months ago

How nice of you, Mr. Welles. Our streets would all look better if each of us had your attitude and gumption. One more suggestion for your good health: Wear gloves or get one of those picker-uppy-thingys. You never know where that trash has been.

Water 7 years, 10 months ago

We should thank those who dispose of their trash along our roadsides. How long would our landfills last if everyone threw their trash in a trash can? Last summer, I collected trash along McDonald Drive for the same reason....bored with exercise for the sake of exercise. I filled a 30 gallon trash bag in 10 minutes on the east side once a day for weeks. One day, man stopped his vehicle on the shoulder, walked into the trees, took a leak, went back to his waiting family and drove off.......repulsed by the audacity of this guy peeing around what I considered to be "my trash", I went to the Country Club side of McDonald Drive and found little trash but oodles of golf balls. I quit the trash business and took up golf. Golf is useless and Alan's story is inspirational. I'll go pick up trash again....

Brian Laird 7 years, 10 months ago

Big hearty kudos to Mr. Welles!

It never ceases to amaze me the number of scum humans (I'd say "pigs", but I don't want to insult the pigs - I feel a bit bad about insulting "scum") who litter our streets with their trash. It's amazing the number of fast food bags, beer bottles and the like I pick up continually. Maybe its time to bring back Iron Eyes Cody and the "crying indian" ads.

appleaday 7 years, 10 months ago

Way to go, Mr. Welles! I pick up trash, too, when I'm walking my dog or just walking downtown and I'm continually amazed at how much trash there is. Yesterday I saw a man walking a huge dog downtown (when all the families were out with their children for the Busker Fest). He let the dog relieve itself in one of the spaces around a small tree and then left the huge pile of you-know-what there for anyone to step in. Please think of others, people!

Romans832 7 years, 10 months ago

Super, Alan! Much success to you in your quest for better health.

I spend time almost every weekend walking between 6th and 11th on Massachusetts--maybe next time I'll have a trash bag with me.

Brad Maestas 7 years, 10 months ago

That's great. Now if only more people would do this (especially in NYC where I live now)! Keep up the good work!

awelles 7 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for all the kind words, and please forgive my narcissism for relishing them. I too wish people would litter less or better yet not at all. The planet is not our wastebasket or ashtray, it's our nest. I'm going on a once in a lifetime vacation from the 31st to the 17th of September. A cruise with port stops in the United Kingdom, Iceland, and Newfoundland. In my other European travels I have seldom see litter. Certainly nothing close to what we see in the USA. I wish we could make that change.

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