Local Hero Of The Week: 1,000 Days Cleaning Up Eaton Canyon — And Counting
Edgar McGregor didn’t set out to clean up trash. But when the 22-year-old began hiking in Eaton Canyon in 2019, he found himself bothered by the copious litter along his path.
“I wasn’t willing to just complain about it without acting,” he said, “so I started bringing a bucket out every day to collect trash.”
What started as a way to clean up his route turned into a nearly full-time volunteer gig; McGregor has now been picking up trash in the canyon for over 1,000 days in a row.
“It snowballed to where I’m now doing it literally every day,” he said. “It wasn’t planned at all, but now I have two five-gallon buckets with me each day when I go out.”
Born and raised in Pasadena, McGregor’s cleanup project began with his interest in the environment, weather and climate. To get outdoors more frequently, he took up hiking Eaton Canyon, a popular trail that begins near the southern border of Angeles National Forest and leads to a waterfall.
Struck by the litter, he showed up again with a mission. After 103 days of cleaning trash off the main trail, he said, he thought his work was done.
“I finally got the main trails cleaned up, and prematurely declared the trail clean,” said McGregor. “Little did I know there was so much trash off the main trails.”
Now, McGregor does what he calls “trail maintenance.” He retraces his steps on the main path, areas he’s already cleaned, where trash builds up quickly from the many park visitors. He also keeps an eye on the areas that don’t see as much foot traffic.
Even if just a tiny percentage of people start going out on their own, we can clean up a massive amount of trash.
In those spots, he said, he sometimes finds garbage that looks like it’s been there for years.
“Those are satisfying [to clean], because … I know the trash won’t build up there as quickly,” he said.
McGregor said his most satisfying days are those when he reaches a milestone he didn’t see coming. One such moment occurred on day 589, when he walked into the park and realized he didn’t have a specific destination in mind to clean.
“That was a huge deviation from my norm,” said McGregor. “I normally had a mental list of places I knew I needed to hit. I had to actually look for trash that day.”
McGregor now attends college at San José State University and plans to work in climatology. He’s interested in heat waves, the southwest monsoon, and droughts, and how all three events affect the climate.
As for his cleanup efforts, he hopes people will take inspiration from him and go out to their own local parks with a bucket and a mission.
“I’m just one person, and I’m able to undo the negligence of others,” he said. “Even if just a tiny percentage of people start going out on their own, we can clean up a massive amount of trash.”