Four years ago, after quietly cleaning up Trace Manes Park for many years, I decided something bolder, more radical and more inclusive was needed. I took to Google to research how other cities were tackling their litter issues and found that both London and Ottawa had Adopt-A-Park programs. Perfect, I thought. A public-private partnership between Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PF&R) outdoor maintenance, community centre and wading pool staff; park stakeholders including the library, tennis club, and the sports field permit holders; and local residents. I put on my business and marketing hat, created an Adopt-A-Park proposal for the City of Toronto, and sent it to the councillor’s office and PF&R management. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, I never heard back. So, I did my best to hold the park stakeholders accountable and continued my litter walks in the hopes of inspiring others to join me.
The letter I received from Heather Matthews really struck a chord (Letters to the Editor, June 2018). Maybe she was right that the City needs to step up and keep our Leaside parks clean, as their vision statement says. If I am doing their job for them, perhaps I’m letting them off the hook. Instead they need to ensure they continue to invest in park operations and maintenance.
I wrote the following letter:
Dear Councillor Burnside and Doug:
I am resigning from my unofficial position as community caretaker of Trace Manes Park and turning this responsibility back to the City. It is no fun for me to continually have to pester LABA to clean up the dugouts and bleachers after their games. To their credit things have significantly improved year over year, however last weekend things digressed again and I am no longer interested in being the one to clean up after them and cause controversy by bringing it to their attention. Pedalheads will be starting their summer bicycle camp soon and it will bring with it snack, lunch and handlebar streamer litter and I cannot continue to email them and pick up after them. Again, no fun for me. I will do my best around the children’s park as I look at it every day and there is no one to hold accountable. I leave it in your good hands to bring all the resources the City has to keep Trace Manes litter free for everyone to enjoy. I’d also be happy to be part of a stakeholders committee to brainstorm solutions. Working together, we could really make a difference and happily coexist. We might also be able to solve some of the litter issues in the other Leaside parks.”
The good news is that after I wrote this letter, things began to change. Additional waste bins appeared behind the baseball diamond. And tonight, as I was doing my litter walk around the park, the baseball game was just ending. Of course, I got a few strange looks from families in the bleachers. But as I rounded the Millwood dugout I heard the coach say to his team: “Hey guys, the game is over. Go shake hands with the other team and then come back because we have to do a sweep of the dugouts.”
Music to my ears!