Community Park Clean Up Builds Teamwork

clean picnic table after park clean up, with lake and mountains in backgound

Park clean up may seem to be a frivolous or trivial way to address neighborhood or community-wide needs.  But in our collective experience as authors, we have seen several examples of such a half-day project kicking off a whole series of community pride events and innovations. Sometimes it even forms the basis for launching a new neighborhood association or block unit.

As we have said elsewhere, a park clean up is a relatively easy event to plan and implement, and a recommended first step in community organizing if there's a park in need of some attention.

This is one of the few activities that we recommend for every level of affluence or poverty in a neighborhood.

On this page where we invite visitor contributions, we're really interested in parks of all sizes and all states of repair.  

Sometimes portions of larger parks have been neglected for decades, or a former park may have become so overgrown it's not even common knowledge that it is a park. Invasive species--the kudzu, bush honeysuckle, and so forth--may have taken over. So we're hoping you can tell stories about how you have worked on such a large problem over time.

In many towns and cities, parks suffered in the Great Recession, and municipal budget cuts for parks have not been restored.  Despite good intentions, the assigned personnel may not be able to keep up with required maintenance. Drought, flooding, vandalism, graffiti, invasive species, wildfires, and random dumping all take a toll.

The problem is that when the park looks as though no one cares, that situation seems to attract laziness about property maintenance in general and may lead to a decline in nearby property values or at least in perceived attractiveness of the neighborhood.

Not to mention, we really want potentially obese kids to get outside and play, and when the parents are recoiling from various types of trash or unkempt vegetation, there's just not as much encouragement from home to get over to the park and get some exercise.

Before we invite you to tell your story, let's give our top tips for cleaning up your neighborhood park.

1. Walk through the park to assess carefully what needs to be done, and agree with the owner of the park, presumably a government, on what can and should be done.

2. If you're an elected or appointed official yourself, divide large tasks into smaller ones and set up a timeline that would allow you to continue present levels of maintenance everywhere. Perhaps you need volunteers to help with a particularly large or daunting task. Usually some people who live near a problem park, or one that just is a little under-maintained, will be glad to help.

3. If you have a major jungle somewhere, don't expect volunteers to fix it. Consult the professionals who clear land for subdivisions and so forth, as they will have the right equipment.

4. Careful pruning, selective cutting of the understory plants and removal of dead debris may be "all" that is required for park clean up in areas that appear extremely overgrown. (Understory means just what it sounds like--the plants that are just shorter than major trees but taller than ground cover, shrubbery, or turf grass.)

5. If your problem is broken glass, it's very important to outlaw glass containers immediately and put some real enforcement muscle into that ordinance. Then to clean it up, usually it's necessary to replace entire mulch beds, sandboxes, expanses of lawn, or wherever it may have accumulated. If glass is embedded in grass, consult your town's most picky lawn service about what to do.

OK, that is enough of what we think. What's your experience?

What have you found that works, or doesn't work, in terms of park clean up? You can send us your photos and stories through the use of the form below; if we can use your submission you get a freestanding web page you can use in your social media. Below you can read other approved submissions for other ideas and perspectives. Please circulate this to other neighborhoods in your city so they can contribute their interesting ideas too.

Show Off Your Park Clean Up

Did you organize a one-day, half-day, or multi-day park clean up? Whether volunteer-driven or undertaken for a modest budget, tell us how you recruited helpers, what was improved and how, your best clean up tips, and how you celebrated, if you did. What equipment did you need? Would you do it again? What would you change?

And when you send photos, if you have "before" and "after," we'll all be grateful.

What We've Heard

Click below to see contributions from other visitors or the editors.

Active participation of students in Park Clean Up Not rated yet
Visitor Question: With rapid development and urbanization most cities are unable to cope with the clean up of the areas. The local park in our area was …

Creative Ways for Park Clean Up! Not rated yet
Too many people visit parks and other outdoor locations and do not practice a "leave no trace" philosophy. It is common knowledge that reducing our impact …

Park Cleanup: It Starts With One Peace, Inc. We Are Changing The World! Not rated yet
We have 3 simple Rules at It Starts With One Peace: 1. Turn the Water OFF while brushing your teeth. Saves water 2. Pick up ONE piece of trash daily. …

Click here to write your own.

  1. Community Development
  2.  >
  3. Community Improvement Projects
  4.  >
  5. Park Clean Up

Subscribe to our monthly e-mail newsletter, called USEFUL COMMUNITY PLUS, which provides you with short features or tips about timely topics for neighborhoods, towns and cities, community organizations, rural environments, and our international friends. Unsubscribe any time. Give it a try.