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Keeping our Parks and Playgrounds Clean!

Public parks and playgrounds offer families and communities a place to gather, play and enjoy the outdoors. When these recreational areas are scattered with trash and debris, it can cause a safety hazard and an eye sore. You can help keep your parks and playgrounds clean and beautiful by organizing a community cleanup project. Use the following tips to collect volunteers, get an important message to the masses, and make a real impact on your environment.

Target a Location

Access your neighborhood and decide what areas need the most attention. Is the community park or playground littered? Is the beach unsafe with broken glass or cigarette butts? Is a nearby river a blemish on the community, discouraging locals from enjoying it? Try and focus on one area at a time to avoid overwhelming yourself and your volunteers. Keep the site's accessibility in mind when choosing a cleanup location. The site in which you choose should have access to nearby restrooms and have enough work to be done to give all volunteers the opportunity to equally participate.

Request Permission

Permission is needed by the owner of the property before you can begin a cleanup project. If the proposed cleanup site is privately owned, you will need to acquire written permission from the owner. It may be necessary to check local land records to initially identify the owner. For public sites, such as most parks and playgrounds, contact local government agencies. The local police station or permits and licenses office may be able to tell you what permits are needed, what type of help is available, and what regulations exist. Explain to the agency that you would like to help in any way you can, whether it's simply picking up trash or painting benches.

Set a Date

Choose a date and a time for the cleanup to take place. Weekends are generally recommended for most types of community projects, as this is when the majority of volunteers will have time off of work, school and other responsibilities. Choosing a date at least one month in advance will give you sufficient time to prepare. Decide how long the cleanup will run. If you decide to conduct an all-day cleanup, consider bringing along refreshments or conducting a picnic lunch. Depending on the season, it may be necessary to have an alternative location for volunteers to go to get out of the elements.

Recruit Volunteers

Reach out to friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and community leaders and ask if they'd like to help. Ask individuals who live around the affected area, as these people will probably be the most interested in the cleanup. Move out to surrounding homes and businesses and discuss the problem and your idea of a cleanup project. Remember that you only need a few volunteers at first. Other people will begin to join your efforts when they understand the difference they can make.

Spread the Word

Get the word out about your cleanup to send a message about the importance of this community project and to attract more volunteers. Use posters, flyers, and word of mouth to advertise. Contact the local media, including the newspaper, radio station, and television news channel, and ask that your event be featured. Consider organizing a public meeting a week or two before the big event to ensure that everyone is aware of the work that needs completing. Get to know your volunteers and what skillset they possess, which can be useful when you're handing out tasks during the cleanup.

Have Fun

A cleanup can also be a social event. Encourage volunteers to stay and enjoy the park, playground, or other site after it's been cleaned and beautified. At the end of the event, hold a concluding activity, such as a potluck, ice cream social, or barbeque dinner. Hold games for the children who attended, and give awards to event leaders. Consider giving fun prizes for various tasks, such as for the funniest item to be found and thrown away. Or offer each person a raffle ticket for each bag of trash they turn in. Most important of all, sit back and take time to enjoy the work you completed.

Follow Up

Take photographs of the cleanup site before, during and after it was completed. Share these pictures, along with a brief article about your project, with your local newspaper to inspire others to keep our parks, playgrounds, beaches, and rivers clean. Develop a strategy to ensure that the area stays clean, and share it with the volunteers and in your article. Be sure to thoroughly thank the volunteers and other individuals who helped make the cleanup possible. Turn a cleanup event into a positive experience for your community and get your neighbors excited to tackle another area of the city.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart