Thousands lend a hand to make Utah 'sparkle'

Thousands of Church members joined people of many faiths and backgrounds in giving the state of Utah a spring scrubbing during "Centennial Statehood Take Pride in Utah Day" May 14.

In myriad projects throughout the Beehive State, Latter-day Saints rolled up their sleeves to tackle a variety of clean-up, fix-up and general spruce-up projects. Efforts ranged from planting, weeding and scrubbing in cemeteries, parks and outside of meetinghouses, to picking up litter alongside highways and assisting property owners with specific needs.Everywhere, there was evident a spirit of enthusiastic cooperation, with the common objective of readying the state to sparkle for its 1996 centennial celebration. This was the first public effort toward that end, and it had the full endorsement of general and local Church leaders, along with leaders of state and local governments.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve is a member of the Utah Statehood Centennial Commission, appointed as a commissioner in December 1992 by then-Gov. Norman H. Bangerter. Elder Ballard's involvement in the "Take Pride in Utah" cleanup effort included his role in helping organize and promote the day's activities on one hand, and participating in cleaning up Miller Park as a member of the Monument Park 13th Ward on the other. (See accounts of projects on page 12.)

"The plan is to clean up, paint up, fix up and make Utah shine, so that when we move into the state's centennial in January 1996, it will be sparkling like never before," Elder Ballard explained. "This was the public kickoff to a number of events leading up to the centennial. We will have several of these projects throughout this year, and then another special cleanup day in May 1995 and follow-up efforts after that."

Leaders involved said the goal of this first cleanup effort was 1 million volunteer hours statewide. Reports on various projects being gathered the week following the event indicated that figure was quite likely reached.

"The church-civic cooperation in this effort has been a wonderful thing," Elder Ballard added. "We're not only talking about Latter-day Saints, but people of all denominations, all of the citizens of Utah rallying to clean up the state. The city of Salt Lake City has been totally cooperative and provided trucks, crews and equipment in support of the effort. The same is true of the Utah Department of Transportation and other government entitites throughout the state."

The support of the Church included a Jan. 18 letter from the First Presidency to regional representatives, stake and mission presidents, bishops and branch presidents statewide.

The letter stated: "Utah will celebrate one hundred years of statehood in 1996. In preparation for that celebration, Utah Governor Michael O. Leavitt has declared May 14, 1994, as Utah Statehood Centennial Take Pride in Utah Cleanup Day, and invited all citizens of the state to `make the state sparkle.' We endorse that effort.

"We encourage all members of the Church in Utah, as citizens, to participate in local community cleanup efforts on May 14. We invite individuals, families, youth groups, auxiliary organizations, and priesthood quorums to give enthusiastic support toward beautification of the state."

Gov. Leavitt, who teaches the Primary Blazer A class with his wife, Jacalyn, in the Yalecrest 2nd Ward, Salt Lake Bonneville Stake, visited five different cleanup sites during the day. He and Centennial Commission Chairman Stephen M. Studdert, who is president of the Highland Utah East Stake, helped kick off activities at Pioneer Trails State Park first thing in the morning. Then the governor, attired in a "Take Pride in Utah" T-shirt, left to visit other projects in Salt Lake County, Ogden, Richfield and Tropic.

"We want to not only beautify, but also help Utahns connect with their wonderful Utah history," said Brother Studdert. "Gov. Leavitt challenged each of us to make the state sparkle, and he showed his personal leadership by spending the day with his family helping to tidy up the state. It's a tremendous beginning to the centennial celebration."

Though this first cleanup day represented only the dawning of the Utah centennial activities, Elder Ballard spoke enthusiastically at what the celebration will ultimately entail, and noted that 1996 events will dovetail into the 1997 sesquicentennial celebration of the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers into Utah. Elder Ballard is the chairman of that sesquicentennial committee.

Kim Burningham, a member of the Bountiful Hills Ward, Bountiful Utah Central Stake, is the full-time director of the 25-member Utah Statehood Centennial Commission, of which Elder Ballard is a member. He told the Church News that there is a broad variety of activities of all kinds planned for the 1996 centennial. "And this cleanup is just the beginning, the philosophy being: When you plan a big party, you have to clean house to get ready for the event. This is the beginning of our housecleaning. Wonderful things are already happening."

Following are some examples of the types of "wonderful things" being done:


This northeastern Utah farming community of about 100 households received its name in pioneer times from the desert flower that grew so prolifically in the area that it was difficult to walk without stepping on it.

Appreciative of the beauty of their surroundings, residents gather annually to clean the park, cemetery and roadsides within the confines of the Bluebell Ward boundaries and the community. This year, the effort was planned for May 14 to coincide with "Take Pride in Utah Cleanup Day."

"Evidence of the support of the community and ward members was shown by more than 100 people congregating at the park to receive assignments as to where they would take part in the cleanup of the area," said Pauline Winkler, ward public affairs director. The cleanup day was organized under the direction of Bishop F. Theodore Kappen and his counselors.


Nineteen BYU stakes responded to the governor's request to clean up Utah by adopting four major cleaning projects in the city of Price and surrounding areas. More than 200 volunteers, all coordinated by George Durrant and Ken Nunley, flocked to Price with rakes, shovels, hoes and grass clippers to assist the city in its cleanup efforts prior to the Governor's Conference on Tourism held there the following week.


Members of the Walnut Hills Ward, Kearns Utah West Stake, were among the thousands of volunteers throughout Utah helping "make the state shine."

Families gathered at the ward meetinghouse in southwest Salt Lake County to plant trees, flowers, paint and otherwise clean up around the building. People pitched in to dig two deep holes through extremely rocky ground prior to planting a couple of 12-foot trees to replace two trees that had died.

The group then moved across the street and fanned out in an adjacent field to pick up litter and other debris. In all, five or six pickup truck loads of garbage were hauled out.

According to Bishop D. Kim Hansen, the project provided a pleasant opportunity for children to work alongside parents, and for building friendships while providing meaningful service.


Residents of this Central Utah town were joined by Church members from Utah Valley in cleaning up their town, providing a needed infusion of labor.

The Tropic Town Cleanup featured among its activities breakfast at the park, sack lunches provided by Young Men and Young Women from the town, a dutch oven dinner and a dance to benefit a family whose home was destroyed by fire.

"Project Tropic" was the name of the effort undertaken by the Utah Valley Public Affairs Council under the direction of Louis Crandall. Approximately 160 volunteers from five stakes in Utah Valley participated in the cleanup efforts in Tropic repairing damaged roads and fences, cleaning vacant lots and homesites, and weeding and cleaning roadsides. Stakes involved were Lehi Utah, Lehi Utah North, Provo Utah Edgemont North, Provo Utah Edgemont and Provo Utah Oak Hills.

The National Park Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, National Guard, State of Utah, Ruby's Inn and the town cooperated by helping provide dump trucks, loaders, backhoes, rollers, drivers and other support.

The governor, traveling through Tropic that afternoon, was visibly moved by the outreach program of love, service and community exchange taking place.


Members of the BYU 14th Stake armed themselves with shovels and rakes to clear ground for the new Aspen Grove baseball field in preparation for the BYU family camps opening June 1. Hundreds of man-hours went into ground preparation and other cleanup projects at the family camp, located on the Alpine Loop northeast of Provo. Kim Cooper, activities committee chairman for the stake, reported overwhelming success and enthusiasm by the students.


The Monument Park 13th Ward had to contend with a conflicting activity during its cleanup effort, an annual outing that had been planned long before the cleanup was announced. Still, 28 people of various ages and representing a "good cross section" of the ward turned out for a successful cleanup, said J. Fielding Nelson, ward community service director.

Ward members accepted as an assignment from the city to clean the Miller Park and Nature Trail on the east side of the city.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve, a member of the ward, came early to spend some time cleaning the park before departing on a Church assignment. While there, he posed for a photo with Tom Fasio, Brother Nelson's neighbor who is not a member of the Church and who served with Brother Nelson as an "unofficial" chairman of the event.

The city provided tools and trash bags and hauled away rubbish when the project was complete.


In what has become an annual project, neighbors, families and friends who live near two neighborhood parks turned out in force to beautify their neighborhood.

For the project sponsored by the Forest Green Ward, Ogden Utah Weber Heights Stake, more than 100 workers converged on the Forest Green and Beus Pond parks for a day of hard work, fun and fellowship.

When the encouragement came from stake Pres. J. Brent Minoch to support "Take Pride In Utah Cleanup Day," Forest Green Ward Bishop Dave Moore said, "This is the perfect day for our annual ward community project. This gives our members young and old, an opportunity to provide a needed service, fellowship with other ward members, and most important, a missionary opportunity with our non-member friends and neighbors."

People from the neighborhood spent the day planting flowers, pulling weeds, trimming trees, and removing debris from the pond and streams.


Members in the Layton Utah East Stake who participated in cleanup projects enjoyed blessings for their labor, according to high councilor Gary Wiseman who coordinated the effort there.

"A lot of people put in a lot of time and a lot of effort," he said. "And I think they felt like they were rewarded by what was accomplished."

The youth of the stake concentrated on cleaning and dressing up the property around three meetinghouses. They removed weeds, planted flowers, picked up litter and trimmed hedges.

Other projects undertaken by the eight wards individually included helping widows and the elderly tidy up their yards and cleaning up vacant lots. One priests quorum installed a drinking-water system in a bowery on the grounds of one of the meetinghouses.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed