Keep North Little Rock Beautiful provided a value of $68,455.20 worth of volunteering services to the city in 2013, according to the organization’s director.

Director Randy Naylor presented the information in a report submitted to the North Little Rock City Council on Feb. 10.

Naylor said the non-profit, volunteer organization has done a good job trying to enhance the quality of live in North Little Rock during the past couple of years.

"I would like to thank Keep America Beautiful and Keep Arkansas Beautiful – it’s great to have the support of the national and state organizations. This is one reason we have been so successful," Naylor said.

In late 2011, a group of four friends and neighbors met for breakfast at the old Starlight Diner, Naylor said.

"We wanted to do something about the littered streets and illegal dump sites we’d seen in our city, as well as the litter we’d observed along the North Little Rock side of the Arkansas River and River Trail. As a group, we decided that becoming a local affiliate of Keep America Beautiful was the best option," said Naylor.

Keep North Little Rock Beautiful became a certified affiliate of Keep America Beautiful in February 2012.

"Since then, we have completed quite a few projects and have tried to involve as many community volunteers as possible. We’re doing reasonably well so far, with our nine-member board of directors also serving as our core volunteer group. But, there’s a lot more we could be doing with a larger pool of committed volunteers to help," he said.

Overall, its most worthwhile project has probably been reviving the yearly Great North Little Rock Cleanup in 2012, after several years’ hiatus.

"In that first year, we had 128 volunteers who cleaned 15 miles of city streets, one public park and one illegal dump site, collecting more than 1,800 pounds of litter. Last year, we bettered that with 194 volunteers cleaning 15 miles of roadways, trails and railroad tracks, two illegal dump sites, and a mile of river shoreline. We collected more than 3,000 pounds of litter during the 2013 event," according to Naylor.

Keep North Little Rock Beautiful’s greatest success story, though, has been initiating the annual Great Arkansas River Cleanup, which takes place in the fall.

"Our first one was held in October 2012. We organized more than 50 volunteers who worked on foot and by boat to clean a stretch of the North Little Rock shore of the Arkansas River, gathering more than 1,000 pounds of trash in just less than two hours," he said.

In 2013, the Great Arkansas River Cleanup expanded far beyond the organization’s expectations. Wanting to eventually cover the entire length of the Arkansas River, Keep NLR Beautiful contacted a few other communities to see if they wanted to take part.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Keep Arkansas Beautiful and Keep Little Rock Beautiful organized volunteers to clean additional sections of the river, as did other groups in Clarksville, Fort Smith, Ozark and Van Buren. In all, more than 250 volunteers removed more than 6,000 pounds of litter from stretches of the river in the six participating communities.

Keep North Little Rock Beautiful hopes eventually to enlarge the river cleanup to include volunteers from all four of the Arkansas River states. Fort Smith has already contacted us about being added to the list of cities taking part this year.

While it’s discouraging to clean an area and then drive by the next day to find it littered again, a third project of Keep NLR Beautiful is working to address this issue.

Keep NLR Beautiful is working with the City of North Little Rock to allow people under court-ordered community service to work off hours by cleaning sites that it identifies as being in great need.

"Before they leave the cleanup site, I ask them to take our ‘no-littering pledge.’ After seeing the amount of trash present and how much work goes into picking it up, most agree never to litter again," Naylor said.

The organization’s next project will be to take on putting a trash trap on Shillcutt Creek to catch litter before it reaches the Arkansas River.

"We are waiting on approval from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department before we begin," Naylor said.

Keep NLR Beautiful is developing a reputation around the state of helping the community.

Elizabeth Philpott of Keep Arkansas Beautiful said "As the volunteer coordinator for Keep Arkansas Beautiful, I have been incredibly impressed with the quality of work consistently performed by Keep North Little Rock Beautiful. The leadership and passion for their community and the Arkansas River help drive this group, and their dedication to improving and sustaining the city is admirable."

Philpott added, "This volunteer-based group provided a value of over $70,000 to the city in 2013 alone. As a North Little Rock resident, I am incredibly grateful to have a group like this active in our community."

She added that Keep NLR Beautiful works hard to ensure a better future for the city and offer great volunteer opportunities and ways for individuals to get involved.

"I love volunteering with KNLRB any chance I get. I take great pride in our city and state, and am immensely grateful for the people in KNLRB. I could not be more proud to call North Little Rock my home."