It takes a village to make the park look great. A park cleanup makes the hard work of cleaning the park a lot more fun. A great first-event to build ownership over the park, here’s how you can make your park cleanup a huge success.
A park cleanup is a perfect event for new groups that are just starting out and can become an annual tradition in the park. Even though picking up garbage isn’t the most appealing concept, people enjoy park cleanup days because they see tangible results of their efforts and feel good about how the park looks at the end of the event. Cleanups are also an inexpensive way to feel connected to your local park. When the community cleans up a park, they are more likely to take ownership of the space over the long term. In short, it’s a way to embed a love and commitment to the park that can have lasting effects.
Many municipalities host city-wide cleanup days in the spring that new community park groups can join. A city-wide cleanup will allow your group to access numerous resources that may not otherwise be available, like garbage bags and gloves, but also their promotional reach will far exceed the means of an individual park group.
Start with your park supervisorBe in touch with your park supervisor about your cleanup, especially if this is your first park event. Nurture a relationship with them as they will be instrumental in the success of your cleanup event and your community park group. Your park supervisor can tell you what permits you'll need and connect you with other park enthusiasts who can join in the cleanup effort. You will likely need a permit if you expect more than 25 participants at your event.
Get organizedWith your park supervisor’s advice, choose a day to host a cleanup. Many groups choose a weekend morning in spring because there will be garbage uncovered by melted snow. Your group will need supplies for your cleanups such as sturdy gloves, garbage bags, a first aid kit, flyers, and a clipboard (to collect emails for a park event mailing list). These supplies cost money but you can talk to your city councillor and see if you can fundraise, find a grant, or local sponsorship to offset your costs. If the entire city is doing a park cleanup day, many of these supplies will be readily available at little-to-no cost.
Tell everyoneCreate a flyer and distribute it to the people in your park and local businesses. If you’re taking part in a city-wide cleanup, this part should be very easy as the municipality will help do some of the heavy-lifting in terms of promotions but you'll need to make an effort to spread the word in your local community.
Energize the teamIt's a great idea to provide some food and snacks before the cleanup. Easy to eat items like pizza or sandwiches will go a long way to keep people feeling energized and appreciated. It's important to make this meal as litterless as possible to set the stage for the cleanup. Encourage people to bring a reusable water bottle.
Clean up dayBefore you start picking up garbage in the park, make sure everybody present is aware of potential dangers and know what not to pick up. Nobody on your cleanup crew should pick up environmental waste such as leaves, twigs, or plants. Nor should they touch dangerous materials such as needles, broken glass, or medical waste. If you find dangerous materials strewn around the park, report it to the city. Everyone should be dressed properly in closed-toed shoes and sturdy gloves. It is wise to pair-up volunteers and assign a few designated routes. Make your volunteers aware of what to do if they come across hazardous materials. Don’t forget to have fun!
Tips & Bonus Ideas
Just a Spoonful of SugarTry to make garbage pick-up fun by turning it into a game of bingo or a scavenger hunt (who can find 3 gum wrappers?)
Couple UpPair your cleanup with another eco friendly event like a bike tune-up
A Learning MomentInvite community organizations that are focused on waste reduction to your event and help educate people on issues such as steps they can take to reduce their waste footprint