Villager Len Ostrom retires KSB Litter Lifter route
Big shoes to fill after 26-year run
Twenty-six years ago, eBay and the History Channel launched, Batman Forever was the highest-grossing film, OJ was convicted, Jerry Garcia and Selena passed away and Len Ostrom signed up to litter lift a mile with Keep Sedona Beautiful.
Until his retirement in March of this year, Len, who is now 82, diligently kept that same mile free of litter for all those years.
Back in 1995, Len and his wife, Olga, had just moved to Sedona and called KSB to inquire about litter lifting volunteer opportunities. “We live in this beautiful environment,” Len said recently, “and trash takes away the beauty and clutters it up. I am trying to keep the environment pristine.”
Len grew up in Minneapolis but lived in both Duluth and St. Cloud, and he and Olga would take their children to Northern Minnesota to camp (their youngest is now 55 and oldest is 62). They would frequent remote campsites with fire rings and find old bottles and tin cans to backpack out. For Len, litter lifting his KSB mile was just an extension of picking up campsite litter with his family many years ago.
When Len retired to Sedona from a management position at age 55, he was unsure if he would appreciate retired life at such a young age and gave himself two years to try it out. Soon after, Len and Olga were hiking three days a week with the Sedona Westerners Hiking Club and frequently backpacking in the wilderness areas of the Grand Canyon, Utah, New Mexico and all over Arizona. They also started volunteering with Friends of the Forest as trail patrollers. As Len became more involved and active in the community, he never looked back or missed his professional life. Retirement life had become busy and fun.
When asked about his litter lifting days, Len relayed the story about a person who smoked Marlboro cigarettes and would throw out the empty boxes every week, in the same place. He picked up those cigarette boxes for more than 15 years before they suddenly stopped, so it remains a mystery what happened.
Today, to keep active and healthy, Len and Olga walk five miles a week and, true to their passion for the Sedona environment, they take litter bags with them, just in case.
Carla Williams, who manages KSB’s Litter Lifter program said, “Len Ostrom, Keep Sedona Beautiful extends a big thank you for the thousands of hours of litter lifting and the dedication both you and Olga have for keeping this area free of litter.”
KSB believes that in Sedona, the environment IS the economy. But if Sedona has far more litter than can be managed by multiple groups, people will start to turn away from Sedona. Litter has been on the increase with the rise in tourism; it’s at an all-time high. KSB receives a number of calls weekly, complaining about litter on the roadways. However, KSB Litter Lifters are only able to clear litter from agreed upon routes with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and Yavapai County. “Some areas are out of our jurisdiction,” Carla Williams explains. “We’d like to be able to service all area roadways, but some routes are managed by other sponsors through ADOT and Yavapai County,” she added. “We’re always looking for people that are interested in adopting a mile or becoming a volunteer lifter to cover for times when people are out of town.”
KSB’s volunteer litter lifter program covers more than 50 miles of the area’s roads with 75+ litter lifters removing debris and trash every month and sometimes weekly. Anyone 18 or older is eligible to join the program and sponsor their own mile or become a substitute. KSB supplies a safety vest, picker, and bags. Removing unsightly litter from our roads not only makes everyone proud of our area, but gives the volunteer a sense of accomplishment while getting some exercise.
If this story inspires you to want to follow in Len’s footsteps, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for an open route or maybe you would enjoy being a substitute volunteer and cover for people on vacation. Call today and leave a message at 928-282-4938. Change your world!
A nonprofit since 1972, Keep Sedona Beautiful, Inc. is committed to protecting and sustaining the unique scenic beauty and natural environment of the Greater Sedona Area, now and in the future. KSB activities range from education and advocacy to hands-on tasks such as litter lifting, as well as preserving the quality of Oak Creek and maintaining Sedona’s dark, star-studded night skies.
For more information about Keep Sedona Beautiful, please visit http://www.keepsedonabeautiful.org/.
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