Thursday, April 14, 2011

Deep in the litter-y woods

...where the solitary men walk or stand, or strew their condom wrappers, new ferns are emerging.

About those woods and my rant and my call to arms. Today I received a response from the Parks Department to my letters regarding the litter and nature of the litter in these woodlands of Prospect Park. Administrator Emily Lloyd addressed nothing by name, except to call "prohibited" the "activities" that generate the litter, and that this will be addressed this by the erection of signs saying Park Closes at Sunset.

Yup, I'm sure that will solve the problem!

She also reiterates that the landscape crew is small and works without garbage trucks in the woodland areas. I don't see this as a handicap. Two hands, two legs, one bag, plus a stick to pick up trash?

On the other hand, the letter also said that a new volunteer group will be focusing on these woods* (did my nagging work?!), so yours truly will be calling and signing up. I will post more information when I have it.

*Update:  This is actually incorrect. Although the letter did state that a new group would be formed - with nothing finalised as yet - a phone call with Eric Landauer, the Director of Government and Community Affairs, just received, clarified this: Mr Landauer said that there are no concrete plans to create such a group but that Parks is open to creating one. At the moment there is a Monday group in The Vale of Cashmere, next door, and a general Weekend Woodland Warriors (!) group targeting all wooded areas of park, and not clean up- specifically. No one, he said, is required to pick up 'that kind' of litter.

I met some volunteers in the Vale of Cashmere on Monday and was impressed by the work they were doing. It was actual work involving shovels. The woodlands in question were also cleaner than they had been a month ago.

In the end it seems that I do not have it in me to wage a war on all fronts with city bureaucracy. Nor have I the never-ending fire in the belly to take on an unpaid job that requires all-out coordination. I  considered it seriously, read a lot, and then lay down and died, bones in the light. 

In that, I have failed. Because the root of the problem remains. Chronic underfunding of public parks coupled with chronic lack of initiative. Says the person who went pins up once she realized just how many rocks would have to be pushed uphill to get something done. I don't believe that volunteering (whether it's donating money or hours) should be the perennial band aid to big city issues. And in this country it is. I want government involvement in my daily life. I want funding for the arts and for parks and for hospitals and for education and for libraries and for fire departments.

Getting sidetracked here...

Yet it is easier to volunteer than to change policy.

And that is why the problem will not go away.

Many thanks to the people who responded last month saying they would be interested in helping de-litter the woods. I shall post details about this effort as I have them. If you would like to help return these woods to themselves, please leave a comment with your email,  or contact me via my profile photo in the sidebar of the blog.

Update: I will be attending an information session at Litchfield Villa, 95 Prospect Place, on April 27th at 6.30pm, to which prospective volunteers are invited. My hope is still to have Parks focus on these woods. I can't help laughing about these exchanges today, as everyone is taking pains to avoid the following words: sex, cruising, condoms. I suppose it is a political minefield for anyone involved in PR. Yet it is what it is.


  1. It is great that you have made it this far. When you first posted on this I was thrilled to see someone so eager to take on the challenge (clearly I was thrilled, given the array of links I left here) because I am so sympathetic to the experience. I am an out of work librarian, now lobbying for public libraries. I worked for two years before being laid off because of budget cuts, because libraries and museums and parks are the first things to go. I have done everything from door-to-door canvassing to meeting with members of Congress, and the response is always the same: “what good does a library do?” I worry that I won’t always have the fight in me, but for as long as I do I will keep at it. It is nice to know that there are people out there like you – and the amazing volunteers who offer themselves to the cause – who understand the benefits of a park or library. So, kudos for the tremendous effort. You have done more than most will ever do, and it will help.

  2. I thought of you and these woods just the other day when I came across a very similar collection of litter in a pull out by the river near where we live. It's not at all private as it's right on the road and it's a new phenomenon in this extremely rural area - at least as far as I know.

    It occurs to me that you might not appreciate being associated with this sort of litter, so I'll add that I also think of you when I see golden club, Abraham Darby, and morrels :)

    Good luck with the trash pick up. If we lived closer, we'd come help.

  3. I live in Oregon. Everybody picks up the litter here. You take a heavy glove (or a stick, or whatever) and a bag for trash when you hike. My favorite litter is cigarette butts. Soggy little rayon tufts are everywhere because the litter patrols usually get the cups, etc., the bigger stuff. Here, people make up the government. If everyone just cleaned the block they live on, everything would be clean, like it is in Oregon.
    Keep up the good work.


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