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Last semester, the Con­ser­vation Club cleaned up a half-mile portion of the biking trail. Left, Andrea Wallace; middle, Jimmy McGrath; right, Tim Polee. Andrea Wallace | Courtesy

When members of the Con­ser­vation Club helped clean up trash along a half-mile stretch of the Baw Beese Trail last semester, they col­lected six bags of trash, four tires, and a win­dowpane in half an hour, senior Andrea Wallace, Con­ser­vation Club pres­ident, said.

Their Baw Beese cleanup events are part of the club’s inten­tional effort to strengthen their presence on campus and in the local Hillsdale com­munity, Wallace said.

“We’re trying to make it bigger and more than just a group that gets together and dis­cusses events, but actually gets the general pop­u­lation of our college to know more about con­ser­vation and con­serve the envi­ronment around our campus,” sophomore Andrew Rademacher, the club’s his­torian, said.

During the fall semester, the club also held a seminar about zero-waste living, showed a doc­u­mentary about the dangers of plastic in marine envi­ron­ments, and a pro­fessor pre­sen­tation on renewable energy. The club’s events encompass vol­unteer work, edu­cation on envi­ron­mental issues, and a social com­ponent, Wallace said.

“I really like the com­munity and how we all drive each other to do better things for the envi­ronment,” Wallace said. “It somehow hap­pened that the theme for last semester was plastic, and so many of our lec­tures and cleaning events ended up being themed around plastic and the envi­ronment, and it’s been really great to have that com­munity and account­ability. It’s also encour­aging because the numbers were slowly dwin­dling over the years, but we’ve been fos­tering a new group, and I’m excited to see what they’ll do next year.”

The original con­ser­vation club began in 2002 and focused on con­ser­vation-related genetic analysis and lab work, according to Pro­fessor of Biology Dan York, the club’s advisor. The club stopped meeting for a few years, and was reformed under Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Biology Jeffrey VanZant with a focus on envi­ron­mental issues.

Mem­bership grad­ually declined, but now there are approx­i­mately 20 active club members this year, Wallace said.

“The club has been smaller in recent years, so we decided this year would be a good year to help it grow a little bit, do a few more activ­ities around campus, and things like that,” junior Jimmy McGrath, the club’s trea­surer, said. “We all just had that shared interest, and that’s how we all started to get a little bit more involved.”

This semester, the club plans to place recep­tacles for used fishing lines at Baw Beese Lake for recy­cling, an effort that began last semester. The club is also working with the city to coor­dinate a tree-planting day in the spring and addi­tional cleanup days for the Baw Beese Trail.

McGrath said the club’s efforts fit in with the college’s larger mission to pre­serve good and beau­tiful things, whether that involves timeless ideas or the local envi­ronment.

“We’re just a bunch of college kids trying to do some­thing that’s good for the envi­ronment and the city, and we figure that we have a lot of oppor­tu­nities to grow because we’re small,” said McGrath. “We want to have more oppor­tu­nities for people to work with the Con­ser­vation Club. Even if it’s just planting trees on a Sat­urday morning, it’s some­thing fun to do, some­thing dif­ferent, and a way to give back.”