Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 9, 2012

NMC students aim to get cigarette butts off of the beach

NMC students aim to get cigarette butts off of the beach

TRAVERSE CITY-- A group of Northwestern Michigan College students are aiming to get "butts off the beach" — the Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park beach, to be specific.

Thanks to their efforts, next spring smokers will be able to toss their cigarette butts into trash receptacles that have been beautifully painted with scenes of nature.

The student group came up with the idea in a Project Management class in September. Their assignment was to develop and carry out a project with "deliverables" at the end. They used Microsoft Project to track it.

Student Erik Thornbury, 31, suggested the project to six fellow students.

"Our beaches are so populated, it can add up to quite a few smokers. I work in the park, and I got the wheels spinning," said Thornbury, a marketing coordinator with the state Department of Natural Resources. "I thought we could decorate garbage cans and put them over there."

Chris Pataky, another student in the group, offered to finance the materials through his company, Pataky's Firearms and Fireworks in Beulah. And Phil Wilson of Blackbird Art, who teaches an after-school art class at Traverse City High School, agreed to contribute his students' artistic talents.

"It was a group effort that we all cobbled together," Thornbury said. "I'm thinking 10 years from now, they'll still be there, and I can tell my kids, 'I did that.'"

Right now, the DNR's Parks and Recreation Division is revising its carry in/carry out policy for garbage. For the last several years, there haven't been any trash cans at the beach, even in the summer. DNR officials agreed to empty the new trash cans, Thornbury said.

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