Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sunday afternoon in the park

This past Sunday was a beautiful spring-like day, sunny, 60's with a pleasant little breeze. I took the kids to one of our favorite city parks. I won't mention which park but will say only that it was not downtown, for reasons that will become apparent later.

Anyway, the park has undergone recent restoration of its lagoons, bringing them back closer to their original 90 year old design while providing a habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Now the first nice day after a long, hard winter is not a good time to judge the condition of any park, everything outside pretty much looks like crap. But what was truly disheartening was the vast amount of garbage strewn throughout the park, in the lawns, in the flower beds, in the lagoons, even right next to the garbage cans. It was obvious that much of the litter had been there awhile as it had become embedded in the dirt and mud, and half submerged in the water.

The piece de resistance was a hypodermic needle that my son found and brought to me. Of course there were no trash cans in sight so as I'm pushing my daughter in her stroller and walking with my son, I'm holding on to this needle, feeling not a little conspicuous! Finally I found an empty beer can on the ground and put the syringe inside. Not that carrying a beer can in the park while pushing a stroller was exactly inconspicuous, but it was better than the alternative. Finally when we got to the playground I found an overflowing garbage can.

This in not meant to be an indictment of the city or the Park District, although the very next day in Grant Park I saw Park District employees hard at work picking up litter.

Nor is it an indictment of the administration of this particular park. They are not responsible for the slovenly behavior of some park (ab)users. I certainly understand budget constraints and lack of manpower. But there are still people on staff who might once in a while take it upon themselves to pick up some of the trash, even if it's not technically their job. And there certainly could have been more trash cans and the overflowing ones emptied.

I think that all of us, park employees and users alike could do a lot better.

Not that the slobs, junkies and vandals would be moved by this, they're probably not reading this blog anyway.

But there were hundreds of people in the park enjoying the day, despite the trash. If everyone of us had taken it upon ourselves to pick up just one piece of garbage and place it in a trash can, it would have gone a long way to make the park a better place.

Everyone talks about the great architecture of Chicago. The parks are part of that legacy, in fact they are some of our greatest treasures. This is our home, this is where our children play, where they grow up.

Let's take our parks back, if need be one piece of garbage at a time.

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