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“Vesper Flights” by Helen Macdonald

Macdonald is a keen observer of nature and humanity. In her newest collection of essays, she seamlessly connects the two. Sometimes essays are the best way to end a day, and she does such a beautiful job of weaving in life lessons in her essays about boars, birds, and mushrooms. Her sentences are glorious; MacDonald is able to take the most mundane tasks: riding in an elevator, walking down the street, and make them spiritual.

In “High Rise” MacDonald discusses the way skyscrapers shooting into the sky aren’t any different than the machines we send into the ocean to discover the worlds we can’t usually inhabit. The songbirds she spots are so tiny and she knows enough about their biology to be amazed at their altitude. She describes them as tiny ghostly points of light and she has to choke back tears as she realizes,  “If I weren’t this high, and the birds weren’t cast in this light, I’d never see them at all.”  She also goes on to talk about all the other man made systems that influence flight patterns, but these tiny songbirds adapt and carry on. Is there any other way? There is, however, quite a bit of danger for migrating birds in the city. On this particular night the birds were attracted to the spire of the Empire State Building which is lit in multiple colors to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the building. On some nights, when the migrating birds are in the city, the 911 memorial lights have to be turned off intermittently in order to let the birds find their way out of the death spiral that is the light pollution. Over 100,000 birds die in NYC alone, but MacDonald recognizes the audubon societies who work to protect them.

MacDonald doesn’t fault skyscrapers or human innovation, rather she wants us to find a way to work together. Part of what high rise buildings do is to allow us to see. They are symbols of mastery and can work as bridges to nature:  stitching sky to the ground. She ends “High Rise” describing the songbirds like this,”Little astronauts, using stars to navigate, falling to earth for a little while before picking themselves up to move on.”

Readers will learn so much about the natural world in each essay MacDonald writes, but she is also able to make us consider our own mark on the world. We aren’t simply learning about birds boars, or climate change. Especially now, MacDonald is offering us hope through her stories and observations. In a pandemic world, she was able to - very gently - offer a quick reminder of the shape of things. “Literature can teach us the qualitative texture of the world. And we need it to. We need to communicate the value of things, so that more of us might fight to save them,"

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Keep Fort Smith Beautiful Earns 2020 President’s Circle Award

Keep America Beautiful®, the nation’s leading community improvement nonprofit organization, has presented Keep Fort Smith Beautiful with its 2020 President’s Circle Award. The President’s Circle Award recognizes exemplary performance by certified affiliates of Keep America Beautiful in creating clean, green, and beautiful communities.

In qualifying for the President’s Circle Award, Keep Fort Smith Beautiful has met standards of merit of Keep America Beautiful by conducting an annual Community Appearance Index; calculating the affiliate’s cost/benefit ratio; and administering initiatives to end littering, improve recycling, and beautify Fort Smith’s community. Keep Fort Smith Beautiful is one of nearly 700 community-based affiliates in the Keep America Beautiful network whose programs, initiatives, and efforts, supported by millions of volunteers, help transform public spaces into beautiful places.

“Each year, our dynamic affiliate network carries out our shared mission at the state, county, and municipal levels across the country,” said Keep America Beautiful President and CEO Helen Lowman, PhD. “By engaging volunteers, building partnerships, and executing innovative programming, our affiliates demonstrate purpose and create collective impact through a national movement with local execution built around mutually reinforcing activities.” 

“2020 was a difficult year for Keep Fort Smith Beautiful, with the sudden passing of our executive director, Andrea Beckman, and two months later, COVID19 hit. We had to cancel several of our programs and events. Luckily, Keep America Beautiful worked with us and we were able to complete all the tasks to receive the Presidents’ Circle Award for 2020!” said Megan Raynor, Keep Fort Smith Beautiful’s Board Member and Treasurer.

Community Appearance Index-Litter Index:  The Keep America Beautiful Community Appearance Index-Litter Index is a tool used by its affiliates to visually assess overall appearance of communities through indicators such as litter, illegal signs, graffiti, abandoned or junk vehicles, and outside storage. A team of community, business and government representatives conduct the visual analysis using a scoring system ranging from 1-4, with “1” rated as “no litter” to “4” being “extremely littered.” Each year, affiliates grade their communities during a drive-by examination of the same areas at the same time of the year. This provides an indication of the success of each community’s anti-littering education and other anti-littering programs.

Cost/Benefit Analysis: This measurement tool enables Keep America Beautiful affiliates to demonstrate their ability to leverage community resources by determining the dollar value returned to the community for every dollar invested by government.

About Keep Fort Smith Beautiful
Keep Fort Smith Beautiful is a group of volunteer-driven citizens dedicated to enhancing the image and appearance of Fort Smith, Ark by creating a successful and aesthetically pleasing community. Our focus is on cleaning up, recycling, education, and conservation.  We are an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful and Keep Arkansas Beautiful. We are a non-profit organization. Follow us on Facebook!

About Keep America Beautiful
Keep America Beautiful, the nation’s leading community improvement nonprofit organization, inspires and educates people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment. Established in 1953, Keep America Beautiful strives to End Littering, Improve Recycling, and Beautify America’s Communities. We believe everyone has a right to live in a clean, green and beautiful community, and shares a responsibility to contribute to that vision. The organization is driven by the work and passion of nearly 700 Keep America Beautiful affiliates, millions of volunteers, and the collaborative support of corporate partners, social and civic service organizations, academia, municipalities, elected officials, and individuals. Join us on FacebookInstagram, Twitter and YouTube. Donate and take action at kab.org.

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Spring 2021 Great Arkansas Cleanup

Spring 2021 Great Arkansas Cleanup

Keep Fort Smith Beautiful is hosting another Great Arkansas Cleanup, on April 24 on the corner of North 2nd and North A in historic Downtown Fort Smith (across the street from the Farmers Market) starting at 9 AM. All cleaning supplies will be provided by Keep Arkansas Beautiful. Volunteers can show up any time between 9 AM and 12 PM, sign in, grab their supplies, and be on their way to do some good for the community. The volunteers can either come with a cleanup area in mind, or they will be supplied one by the Keep Fort Smith Beautiful representatives. All volunteers are encouraged to bring the collected litter back on site where they can discard it in a dumpster provided by the City of Fort Smith.

All volunteers will be required to follow the Arkansas Department of Health COVID19 Guidelines during the event!

Great Arkansas Cleanup Sign Up

Sign up for our Great Arkansas Cleanup so we can keep you informed prior to and after the event.

About Keep Fort Smith Beautiful

Keep Fort Smith Beautiful is a group of volunteer-driven citizens dedicated to enhancing the image and appearance of Fort Smith, Ark by creating a successful and aesthetically pleasing community.

Our focus is on cleaning up, recycling, education and conservation.  We are an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful and Keep Arkansas Beautiful. We are a non-profit organization.

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A Big Bin Adventure

Why in the world would you ever buy dirt?

Why would you ever buy bottled water?

The answer to the first question can be found below but the answer to the bottled water question is interesting.  Bottled water became popular with consumers looking for alternatives to carbonated soft drinks.  Big soda was able to convince consumers to pay a dollar or more for something they could get for free.  The result has been our planet being taken over by single use plastic bottles.

Why buy something that you can get for free?

You don't need to buy water and you don't need to buy dirt.  If you will make your own dirt by composting, not only will you save money but you will also help save the earth.   Composting reduces methane gas emissions.  Healthy soil brings healthy plants. Returning nutrients back into the soil continues the circle of life.  Healthy soil is the foundation of our food system.

How can you turn you backyard into a black gold composting machine?  There are many options for building a compost.  We have been composting at our house for many years using our large three sectioned composting bin which is divided into three sections. We have named our compost Big Bin (see photo).  You don't have to go big with your bin.  You can start with piles of leaves,  grass and food scraps or you can use small containers or you can invest in a tumbler bin container.

How ever you choose to begin your big bin adventure, here is a list of "to do's" composting:  

  • Choose a corner  of the yard that gets a little shade.
  • Alternate between carbon-rich brown matter (dried leaves, paper, cardboard and wood pieces) and nitrogen-rich green matter (uncooked fruits and vegetables, green leaves, grass clippings, tea bags, coffee grounds.
  • Keep the pile moist, water weekly if needed.
  • Include in your compost: uncooked fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds, egg shells,  newspapers, paper egg cartons, other non-recycled paper like paper towels, tissues and paper plates that is free of grease and cleaners
  • Avoid: meat, bones, fish, dairy, fats, leftovers and animal feces

How long will it take?  If you turn it regularly, you can have black gold compost as soon as three months.

Why is the dirt you create better than that the dirt you purchase?  Your created dirt does not put controversial fertilizers in your yard.

Good luck with your big bin adventure!

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Megan Raynor

Board Member

Megan Raynor is a life long Fort Smith resident.  Megan enjoys being involved in her community, by volunteering her time on several boards and committees.  She joined Keep Fort Smith Beautiful to positively change the town she lives in.  Megan said, “Our efforts can be seen immediately, whether it be a litter clean-up, tree planting, or education presentation.  It feels good to make an impact where we live.” 

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Paula Linder

Board Member

I volunteer with Keep Fort Smith Beautiful because I care about the health of our city and our planet. The trashing our city is unacceptable to me and because I can't stop the trashing I must help clean it up.

I am currently volunteering for:  Future Fort Smith Followup Committee, Park Partners, STEPS Board of Directors, Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission, Keep Fort Smith Beautiful, Arkansas Citizens Climate League, River, and Valley Adoption Coalition.

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Keley Simpson

Board Member

Keley Simpson is a native Fort Smithian, She is also a regular recycler and user of reusable shopping bags. Keley joined KFSB in 2015 after attending a meeting and learning how KFSB strives to keep Fort Smith clean, green and beautiful. In 2017, she and two other Board members developed a curriculum called Talking Trash. The curriculum educates kids how to reduce their impact on the environment. Keley is an alumni of Leadership Fort Smith Class of 2020. She serves on Future Fort Smith Committee, as well several other non profit boards.

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“Talking Trash” – Creating Waste Warriors

Talking Trash

As a part of Keep Fort Smith Beautiful’s mission to maintain a successful and aesthetically pleasing community, we have launched the “Talking Trash” program. This program is designed to teach the youngest members of our community the importance of keeping our spaces clean and protecting the environment. As a part of the program, the youngest participants will become the Waste Warriors, committed to taking the action to improve our environment.

The Waste Warriors’ Action Plan:

– Stop using plastic bags at the store and only use cloth bags

– Make sure your family recycles responsibly

– Build a compost bin

– Reduce, reuse, refuse

– Pick up litter when you see it

If you would like us to facilitate this presentation please reach out to [email protected] .