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Citywide cleanup event targets 35 parks in Grand Rapids

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Posted at 10:38 PM, Apr 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-17 22:49:56-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Dozens of volunteers spent their day picking up trash and beautifying parks in Grand Rapids.

At one location, they were more focused on getting rid of invasive plants.

“They always say, 'Leave it the way you found it,'” said one volunteer.

But not everyone listens. In fact, some just throw their trash wherever they want, not even thinking of the environment.

That’s why volunteers around Grand Rapids spent their Saturday at several parks doing some spring cleaning.

“The parks are a great asset to our city and our neighborhoods; it’s routinely one of the items that brings people to a city,” said Andrew Wahlstrom, board member for the Creston Neighborhood Association.

He and about 30 other volunteers were out at Huff Park helping to beautify the landscape.

“It’s great as a community for us to pitch in and help clean up either garbage or in this case invasive species,” said Wahlstrom.

He helped toss some garlic mustard plants, which spread easily and are destructive.

“Smells like a good dish of Italian spaghetti,” said one volunteer.

Andrew educates people about the species, telling them if you see it in your backyard or at the park, it’s OK to pull out and throw away.

“Each one of these plants can grow up and produce 800 seeds, which can then fall on the ground and stay dormant for 7-10 years,” said Wahlstrom, “and so getting it early like we’re doing here, there’s a lot of it but sparsely populated will prevent it from running out of control.”

Saturday’s cleanup was put together by Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, and it was the first-ever “It’s My Parks” day focusing on 35 sites around the city.

“These are our public spaces, these are park spaces; let’s get out and be in them,” said Lauren Davis, urban forest manager for Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. “Let’s take care of them; let’s be a resource to help people engage with their park space that we’re lucky to have 75 of them in our city.”

Sometimes they’re littered with trash.

“I saw a fair number of takeout containers, which is probably the result of COVID,” said Wahlstrom. “There’s more takeout happening these day, but those Styrofoam containers never break down, so those are especially important to get in the garbage.”

“If you don’t have trash cans and you know there’s a place,” said Davis, “as a community member, if you have a park and there’s always trash in one spot, let the city know. It’s like, ‘Hey, can you guys put a trash can here?’ I think there are some solutions by talking to both amongst your neighbors and community members and reaching out to the city about if there’s a trash problem; what can we do about it besides ignoring it or being mad about it?”

“If you enjoy being in this park and it’s green and trash free, leave it that way,” said Wahlstrom.

The group cleaned up Friday and Saturday. For more volunteer events click here.

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