Clean Sweep Debrief

Posted on June 10, 2009


The turnout wasn’t great, but I think that it was time well spent connecting with fellow East Lynn Community Project members and with the people who use Kiley Park, which on Saturday morning are mostly Little League teams and their parents. Ward 3 Councillor Darren Cyr grilled hotdogs for hungry volunteers afterwards, and Mayor’s aide Andrea Scalise helped for a while picking up trash.  

Yes, there were maybe only a dozen East Lynn Community Project members taking part in the event, but add to that the Little Leaguers and their parents who chipped in when we told them about the food compoment afterwards, and you had a pretty good turnout. We also conducted a lot of outreach, introducing people to our organization and letting them know when the next meeting would be. (More on that in a later post.)  For myself, I saw first-hand how we could improve the next time we did this.

I felt like somewhat of an outsider on the previous cleanup effort–Kiley Park, after all, is not my immediate neighborhood. I live maybe a half a mile or so away. From this perspective, I was giving up my Saturday morning to clean a neighborhood that was not mine. I began to think of my efforts as futile, considering that the neighborhood would just get littered again. I didn’t think that my 2 hours of picking up trash would effect lasting change? This perspective led to resentment on my part.

Then I realized, it’s really not about coming to a place and picking up others’ trash. It’s not about giving residents a clean neighborhood for a day, but teaching them the value of maintaining it.  Indeed, some residents already care and were doing their part.  When I realized this, it felt less important to pick up every last cigarette butt than it was to engage people, tell them what we were doing and invite then to do the same. And to thank the one’s who were already participating and invite them to the cookout.

From this new perspective, my agenda became less important.  The first step from this perspective is to figure out what the users, or stakeholders of the park, want. Do they consider litter a problem? Do gangs hang out in the park after dark? I already knew what I wanted–a safe and clean place to live, a city to call my home, perhaps even the pride to think that I could make a difference.