Each year, the Governor’s Community Achievement Awards (GCAA) celebrate ten Texas communities for their achievements in litter prevention, beautification, public awareness, and other focus areas. Categorized by population, these ten cities share a prize of $2 million in landscaping projects.
In Fort Worth, garnering the prestigious Governor’s Community Achievement Award (GCAA) has a far-reaching impact. The GCAA recognizes the efforts of city leaders, but Debbie Branch, Fort Worth’s resource recovery planner, believes that the award celebrates more than just city government. “The GCAA honors the work of the entire city,” Branch said. “In my ten years here, I have seen our community develop a robust cleanup program.”
Branch credits the city’s victory to its ability to innovate and embrace new ideas. Each year, more than half of those who volunteer at events are young people. “We had to find a way to connect with students, to reprogram the way we think as leaders.” According to Branch, organizations across Fort Worth are working with students to create litter-free campuses. “We’re connecting to our most important citizens at a young age and cultivating healthy habits, which is key to ending litter in our community.”
In 2016, thousands of residents volunteered to help beautify their community. At the 31st annual Cowtown Great American Cleanup, 7,000 attendees collected more than 107,000 pounds of trash. The Trinity Trash Bash, held in partnership with the Tarrant Regional Water District, drew nearly 10,000 volunteers, who pulled 24.6 tons of trash from the Trinity River. Along with cleanup events, Keep Fort Worth Beautiful coordinated composting classes, recycling education campaigns, and community improvement initiatives such as the Cowtown Brush-Up. As part of this revitalization effort, volunteers cleaned repainted and landscaped 66 homes in low-income neighborhoods.
By engaging young volunteers, embracing new ideas and diversifying community improvement efforts, the City of Fort Worth has inspired a new generation of leaders. Debbie Branch said that this is the key to continued success. “Having lots of different programs provides people with many opportunities to be a part of the solution.” As new leaders emerge from schools and community organizations, and partnerships with statewide entities such as Keep Texas Beautiful and TxDOT continue to grow, Fort Worth is poised to remain a clean, green city far into the future.