Volunteers fanned out Saturday across Fontenelle Park, raking plastic bags and bottles from the lagoon and spreading mulch under trees as part of a cleanup that ties into Omaha's massive sewer improvement project.
Sponsored by Black & Veatch, one of the engineering firms working on the $2 billion sewer overhaul, the cleanup attracted more than 50 volunteers.
They included company employees and teenagers from Jacobs' Place Transitional Living and North High Magnet School's engineering program.
“We're cleaning up the park, picking up trash from around the pond,” said Matt Schultze, a project manager for Black & Veatch. “We're trying to help this neighborhood.”
The lagoon and park will be the site of future sewer and runoff work that will allow the pond to take on more stormwater that would otherwise spill downstream, said Jim Theiler, the City of Omaha's coordinator for the combined sewer overflow program.
The level and quality of the water in the pond, now a murky green, will also improve.
Plans for the park and sewer work in the surrounding north Omaha neighborhoods are still in the design phase, Theiler said.
“There will be new pipes under and all through this neighborhood that will be a disruption,'' he said, “but when we're done our goal is to put things back as good or better.”
Volunteers, clad in blue shirts with “Fontenelle Park Lagoon Cleanup” written on them, speared cigarette butts and discarded styrofoam coffee cups, quickly filling garbage bags with trash.
Teenagers showed off their haul, which included fast-food bags and even an old flip-flop.
Landon Eggers was honest about the teens' motivation to join the cleanup: They were lured by the promise of pizza and the chance to log some community service hours.
“We were bribed with food,” he said.
Others, some outfitted with waders, climbed into the shallows of the lagoon and grabbed lighter fluid bottles and old golf balls.
Terry Hawley and his sons Tom, 12, and Will, 10, helped pick up the plastic bread bags left behind by people feeding ducks and geese. The bags were strewn all over the banks of the lagoon.
“You get a couple of people with bags and someone raking it up and it goes pretty quickly,” Hawley said. “Service is always good. If we can help clean up the lagoon, we will. It's a nice park.”
Similar cleanups took place Saturday at Glenn Cunningham Lake and Standing Bear Lake, led by Keep Omaha Beautiful, Theiler said.