Want clean parks? Show up for Community Pride Day

Published 4:07 am Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It’s the season for spring cleaning, and Austin’s parks hold a place on this weekend’s to-do list.

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department will host its sixth annual Community Pride Day at 9 a.m. Saturday. Volunteers interested in helping clean up the city’s 28 parks can meet at the municipal pool parking lot.

“The main purpose is to pick up garbage in green spaces,” said Kim Underwood, director of the Parks and Rec Department. “Every little bit helps.”

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Volunteers will be given trash bags, recycling bags and gloves, then divide into groups and sent out to the parks. In addition to the parks, groups will hit certain trails, the downtown area and school spaces.

“We’re finding less garbage as the years go on,” said Steve King, a member of the organizing committee. The group pulled larger trash items like refrigerators, air conditioners and tires during the first few years of the event, he added.

“I’m happy to see we’re not finding abandoned appliances anymore,” King said.

Volunteers in previous years have ranged from individuals to families to church groups.

“Everyone’s welcome,” Underwood said. “We have parents bringing small children with them.” She added that all ages are welcome, though parents should supervise younger children.

“It’s very generous that we do get the support from the community,” Kind said.

The department doesn’t have a prediction on how many people will attend, and said it often depends on the weather. Last year, conditions were poor and about 256 people showed up, Underwood said. She saw fewer than 200 during one particularly rainy year.

Volunteers are invited to simply show up; there is no advance registration. Late arrivals can still meet at the pool parking lot to pick up supplies and get started, Underwood said.

Those with a particular park in mind can call the department in advance and request it. These types of requests are common, Underwood said, since people want to see the place they live near or use get cleaned.

“If it’s an area they use it makes it nice for them,” she said.

Several companies are helping out with donations, including Y Waste Removal, which will cover a portion of the large trash bin’s cost.

Hy-Vee Foods plans to donate doughnuts and coffee for the event, which volunteers can enjoy in the pool parking lot. Walmart is donating garbage bags. Part of the event’s recycling effort will take place as soon as recyclables get collected.

“The ACES group, right on site, does some sorting,” Underwood said, referring to the Austin Coalition for Environmental Stability.

“I love their dedication,” King said. “They will sit in a line all day, until five in the afternoon, in their assembly line picking through trash.”

In the past, trash from Community Pride Day filled an entire pickup truck with recyclables, Underwood said. The department typically has several pickup trucks running in a circuit between parks to pick up full bags during the three-hour event.