Volunteer Profile: Cleaning Up the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

by Ricardo Small
Mary Small and Mark & Lorry McConnell pick up trash on March 1, 2021.

Mark and Lorry McConnell are from Renton, WA. near Seattle. Lorry worked in banking and Mark in manufacturing. They both retired in May 2018 and starting traveling mostly in the winters throughout the western US and Canada. They’ve been in Arizona the last three winters to visit family and to enjoy pleasant winter weather while hiking and backpacking.

Lorry and Mark have a history of volunteering prior to retirement through their children’s interests, their work and even in an unorganized way. When they stayed in campgrounds during their travels, they cleaned campsites and fire pits to make the next person’s visit more enjoyable without an unsightly mess. Sometimes that cleanup is a challenge because a few campers use campgrounds as dumps.

At the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR), Mark and Lorry have enjoyed meeting other volunteers and being part of a “can do” group of Friends, including Reta, Barb, Jess and Susie who are supportive of their cleanup efforts.

Mark wrote in an email, “We love that anywhere you go [on the Refuge] you never know what you will see whether it be birds, cats or hooved animals. The diverse plant life is also very intriguing to us.”

When they arrived on the Buenos Aires, they asked what they could do to help. Reta Rutledge, the vice president of the Friends of BANWR and a master at getting folks to have a positive experience volunteering, mentioned they could help with barbwire cleanup, so they put their names on the list. The next day they hiked road 306 and noticed a vast amount of bottles and debris that needed to be removed. That was the beginning.

Most of the trash is old, like all these items, including a disintegrating backpack.

“We started using our dollar store picker to get the bottles but soon realized the dollar picker would only last a dollar’s worth. Luckily, Barb and Reta provided us with professional grade pickers and plenty of trash bags. Jess and Susie provided road side pickup of our filled bags and we were off on our trash and debris cleanup adventure. We moved into the Arivaca Wash with our cleanup efforts both north and south of the Arivaca-Sasabe Road with good success!”

All of us who love the BANWR are fortunate that Mark and Lorry devote their time to cleaning up trash on the Refuge. Some of that debris contains toxic chemicals that is detrimental to wildlife. Thank you Mark and Lorry for your work and for planning to come back next winter.

“We plan to come back to BANWR. We have had such an amazing time doing so many activities and are looking forward to taking part in many other projects and adventures.”

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