Community, Cottage Grove, Public Safety & Health

Jane Rapier: Going beyond to keep CG litter-free

COTTAGE GROVE – If you have ever spent time driving around Cottage Grove you will no doubt have noticed two things. One: the streets and byways are remarkably litter-free; the other: a very industrious individual with a cart and those long-handled trash picker-upper tongs.
Following her own schedule and routes, the dedicated Jane Rapier quietly and without fanfare goes about her self-appointed task of making her city a cleaner, more appealing place to be.
The City of Cottage Grove on Aug. 26 recognized Rapier’s efforts as the Vision Keepers Committee made a presentation to community members who exemplify different aspects of the city’s 2037 Action Plan.
The Vision Keepers Committee members are appointed by the Cottage Grove City Council, and are tasked with monitoring progress of meeting the Vision 2037 Action Plan. Developed in 2008 by the community, its intent is to foster partnerships and actions to build a better quality of life for residents and visitors for years to come. The motto, “Building Bridges to the Future” reflects not only the hope but the importance of covered bridges to Cottage Grove.
Rapier was selected, appropriately enough, to receive her award for the “Preserving and Promoting Environmental Assets” area of the vision plan.
In awarding the framed certificate, Vision Keeper and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Travis Palmer told of his first meeting Rapier: “Having newly arrived in town, I had noticed her working along the Interstate onramp, so I stopped to thank her and introduce myself,” Palmer said, “and while she was friendly and receptive, she never stopped working picking up the litter.”
The applause that followed her award was resonant and long-lasting as the room rose to its feet.
I had long wanted to stop and talk with Rapier to share her story in this column. Seeing her publicly recognized let me know now was the time and I caught up with her before she could escape from City Hall.
She said she had been doing her mission “for about six or seven years now; I can’t remember exactly,” she said. “I started out just picking up in Coiner Park and it kind of grew from there.”
She takes on her job “whenever I have time – usually about three times a week,” she said. “In the winter it is less because I volunteer at the schools.”
She never knows what she’ll find. She’s found all sorts of things, including Social Security and identity cards, she said, which she has turned over to the police.
But one particular bane has been cigarette butts, which do not decompose naturally and end up in birds’ nests. “They say people are smoking less nowadays,” she said. “I sure would hate to see what it would be like if they were smoking more!”
One surprise to Rapier has been the response of the denizens under the bridge. Almost every time she comes across one of these travelers while she is working, she said they pitch in, unsolicited, and help her clean up the area. “They have nothing really to gain by helping, but they do and it is the sweetest thing,” Rapier said.
Thank you to these volunteers and Rapier for giving so much of herself. I try and follow her example and pick up what I can when I see something where it shouldn’t be. I would also like to challenge Grovers to do better in keeping our city clean and invite residents and visitors alike to do the same.
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Contact Dana Merryday at
[email protected].



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