My Thorncliffe Park ravine litter picking adventure began with a humble post on the Leaside Community Facebook site. “Project A.C.R.E. (Act to Clean Ravine and Environment) – A Thanksgiving environment project in association with Police Divisions 53/54 and the Thorncliffe Park community. Meeting place baseball diamond Leaside Park, Sat., Oct. 6, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Police horses, fire department, garbage disposal pickup trucks provided by City, 100-200 volunteers expected from Marc Garneau High School and the Ismaili community. Still time to join. Contact Judy Hardy.”
So I did. Judy, a member of the Doctors’ Lions Club who lives in North Leaside, explained that Police Services would be out with sniffer dogs on Friday sweeping the area for weapons and drug paraphernalia. Saturday morning would begin with speeches from the various organizations involved, the area would be divided into four grids, volunteers would be provided with gloves and garbage bags, and lunch would be served. “It would be so great if more Leasiders would get involved in this initiative,” she said. So, I asked my husband, Doug, to join me.
Thankfully, the rain held Saturday morning and as we arrived the speeches were just beginning. The Police Neighbourhood Resource officers talked about how delittering the area was part of their crime reduction and community building strategy. I was impressed with the number of corporate sponsors like Home Depot and Costco, which provided supplies and volunteers, and Tim Hortons, coffee. Henry Ford’s quote from one of the officers – “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” – drew a big cheer from the crowd. And then we were off!
Doug and I joined a group which headed through the park toward the ravine. First stop was the sitting bench area where we picked up numerous cigarette butts. Then we parted ways with Doug heading under the bridge and me heading down into the ravine. My first observation was that it was pretty disgusting and overwhelming. Lots of water bottles, soda and beer cans, liquor bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers, furniture, clothing, broken glass. Dragging my bag up and down hills, and crawling over logs, I filled it with dirty, stinky stuff and talked with others doing the same. The difference was immediately noticeable. One dad told me he brought his son to teach him the importance of keeping the park litter free. “We’ve got to teach the next generation.” I even found a muddy $20 bill, which I pocketed as I didn’t think anyone was coming back for it. At one point, halfway up a hill and not really sure where I was, I looked up and there was Doug! Yay…I was found! He helped me drag my bag up to the trail where we left it to be picked up by City staff and then headed back to the car. I saw a police officer along the way, found the $20 bill in my pocket and handed it to him to fund the cause.
What an experience. I have never seen so much garbage in a public park. So, what’s the answer? More garbage receptacles? More frequent litter picking by City staff? More community cleanup days? More education in the local schools and apartment complexes? I have no idea how to stop people from littering. But I can pick up after them in the hopes that Jane Jacobs’ quote, “people don’t litter where there is no litter,” will eventually come true.