It's that time of year again. The snow is gone, the birds are chirping, and the first dashes of colourful spring blooms have shown themselves – and that means it's time for the annual Memorial Park Earth Week clean-up.
For all of our advancements as a species, we humans are unfortunately still prone to discarding unwanted items in places we shouldn't - wrappers on the sidewalks, bottles on the beach, cans floating in the river, broken air conditioners tossed in ditches.
Just the other day, a reader sent me this photo of a bunch of trash bags tossed in the ditch along the 7th Line over the weekend. Municipal crews were quick to collect the trash bags, but they shouldn't have had to.
It can be easy to forget just how messy we are, when for several months everything is covered in a thick layer of snow, but the spring melt shines a bright light on our terrible addiction to generating waste, and our apparent disdain for trash bins by enough of us to make the early days of April an ugly mess indeed.
Our waterside parks with their sandy beaches, lush grass, shady trees, and beautiful views are certainly not immune from the seemingly insatiable need for humans to make a mess.
For the past seven years, The Meaford Independent has sponsored and co-hosted, along with the Friends of Memorial Park, an annual clean-up of Memorial Park: this year, on April 30, we will host our eighth clean-up of the park.
Memorial Park is not just a beautiful place to relax, it is also one of the few municipally-owned and -operated facilities that actually pays for itself, and it greets and hosts visitors from far and wide, so the better it looks and the cleaner it is, the more attractive it is to campers.
The first two Earth Day clean-ups at the park attracted a dozen or so volunteers who spread out across the park with trash bags in their work-gloved hands to collect the trash that others had left behind. The piles of trash collected in those early clean-ups were large, and some of what was found by the volunteers was cause for some head-scratching.
Rolled-up carpets, small appliances, mattresses, chairs (both lawn and living room), and large pieces of metal - purpose unknown - added to the already large piles of green garbage bags gathered by the volunteers.
In the last few years, the clean-up event has become more of a social gathering – attracting some 50 volunteers – than a dirty, labour-intensive clean-up. You might think that 50 volunteers are going to gather far more trash, from a wider area, than a dozen volunteers, however the previous years of cleaning up the park on Earth Day have meant that, while a modest pile of trash bags accumulates throughout the day, gone are the mountain-sized piles of trash, and also gone are the home furnishings and appliances.
Less trash to collect has meant that the volunteers can attend to other needs in the park such as planting trees and pulling Garlic Mustard, an invasive species that is present in the park.
Less trash in the park doesn't mean that we don't want as many people as possible to join us again this year on Sunday, April 30 from 1 – 3 p.m. at Memorial Park. Enjoy an afternoon in the park and if it's chilly, don't worry, you can warm up with some warm apple cider and snacks, great conversations, and a lot of laughs.
If you've joined us for the previous Earth Day clean-ups at Memorial Park, we look forward to seeing you again. If you haven't, we'd love for you to come out, enjoy the fresh air, and help take care of a gem of a park. All you have to bring along are some gloves and a smile.
If it happens to be raining, stay home and dry, we'll postpone the clean-up until Sunday, May 7.
We look forward to seeing you there!