Three-year-old Naomi Jones crept closer to the shallow waters of Bear Creek, leaves crunching under her pink rain boots.
"I think I see something over here," she yelled. With her too-big gloves, Naomi picked up a discarded bottle wrapper and some Styrofoam to bring back to her mother, who had a large trash bag open and waiting.
Naomi, along with her mother and older brother, filled up nearly four trash bags Saturday in an attempt to help clean-up Bear Creek Park and the waterway it's named for ahead of Earth Day.
They were joined by more than 100 others — individual families from around Dundalk, student groups checking off volunteer hours and Towson University alumni, who were participating in a community-wide day of service.
John Long, the organizer who brought them all together, said it was a beautiful thing to see so many people working to clean up the park. He said it was especially gratifying to see all the children running around, trash-grabbing tools in hand.
"These kids spend a few hours outside picking up trash, they're not going to throw their next gum wrapper on the ground," Long, 49, said. "They're going to remember picking up 30 other people's gum wrappers."
The clean-up effort coincided with an annual Towson University program, dubbed "The Big Event," which is the school's single biggest service day of the year. More than 2,000 students, alumni and staff fanned out across the region to participate in various community events.
About 30 alumni took part in the Bear Creek program, including 24-year-old Michelle Anaba. The Parkville resident said she never had time to participate in The Big Event as a student, but "figured it'd be a good way to give back and get involved with Towson again."
Jim Christ, from the Towson graduating class of 1971, came to the clean-up with his brother and great-nephew. He recalled playing in the park while growing up, back when there were more trees and fewer homes.
Christ and his friends would swing from a rope swing and play on the baseball diamonds. Now, it's sad for him to see debris on the ground.
Matthew Johnson came with a large group of volunteers from CityFam, a Baltimore-based group focused on service and socializing. Johnson, 30, said he is thinking of joining a softball team that practices at Bear Creek and wants to help keep it nice — a mission that felt especially important the day before Earth Day.
"Respecting where we're from," he said, "keeps us more grounded as people."