Pitching in for Roger Williams Park

More than 300 people turned out to pitch in for the fifth annual at Roger Williams Park clean-up.

I've spent a lot of time at Roger Williams Park this year, working on the story that ran in the April issue of Rhode Island Monthly about the efforts to improve the water quality there. It's a complicated problem, resulting not only from the litter that accumulates in the park, but all the junk that washes in from storm drains, a legacy of industrial pollution and an overabundance of pavement in the surrounding neighborhoods. But on Saturday morning, more than 300 undaunted folks turned out to pitch in for the fifth annual park clean-up.

They were there to dredge up all the zillions of plastic bottles, old tires, random trash, ragged cardboard coffee cups and at least one dead cat that somehow found its way downstream or downhill into the ponds and concentrated in the shallow muck along the shoreline. The volunteers came from the surrounding neighborhoods and from around the state. They were young urbanites, Boy Scouts, fishermen, grandparents, first-timers and park veterans. They worked hard, and many were reluctant to leave when the event officially ended at noon. 

Several volunteers there talked to me about the beauty of the park, with its rolling hills, ancient trees and paths along the shore. And they would add how sad it makes them to see the place trashed and under-appreciated. Bill Sweeney, a neighbor who walks in the park often with his dog and his granddaughter, says he's hopeful things are starting to change. "This is my third year here [at the clean-up]," he says, "and I think things are getting better. People finally are starting to realize, I think, that this kind of mess is just not acceptable. This can't be our legacy. We can't leave this to our children." 

I'm hopeful that the more people that get out and enjoy the park, the better off it will be. We're lucky that the generations before us set this space aside so urbanites could connect with nature. If you've been to Central Park, or Golden Gate Park, or any of the other dozens of urban parks around the country, you know what a treasure an urban park can be. Let's get out there and use our park, hike the trails and explore the ponds, and take care of it all, for the ones who come after us.

To find out more about how you can be a volunteer for the park, find Roger Williams Park Conservancy on Facebook, or go to www.nbep.org.

Watch a video slide show that documented the clean-up.