Citywide cleanup event targets 35 parks in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Lots of volunteers invested their day getting garbage and improving parks in Grand Rapids.

At one place, they were more concentrated on eliminating intrusive plants.

“They always say, ‘Leave it the way you found it,’” stated one volunteer.

However not everybody listens. In truth, some simply toss their garbage anywhere they desire, not even considering 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 toss 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 garbage.

“I saw a fair number of takeout containers, which is probably the result of COVID,” stated 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,” stated 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,” stated Wahlstrom.

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

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.