Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra couldn't have chosen a more fitting spot than Colt Park to announce a citywide cleanup initiative.
The place is a mess. There's graffiti on just about every surface the concession stand, the bleachers, the water fountain by the Roberto Clemente ball field.
And despite garbage cans located nearly everywhere in the park, the grounds are littered with broken glass, empty containers and trash usually just steps from those empty bins.
Just past the ball fields, Anastasia George and her family were enjoying a day at their neighborhood park. But before they could, she said, they had to search for an area clean enough to set down their blanket.
"People just don't care," she said.
Mayor Segarra is betting against that.
"This is a shared responsibility,'' he told the group of gathered officials and residents.
So, starting Monday, Aug. 23, the "Week of the Parks" kicks off at Keney Park. (See my Notes from Hel blog at http://blogs.courant.com/helen_ubinas/ for more information and a full schedule of cleanups.).
The effort will be led by the city's Department of Public Works, which is in the process of hiring seasonal workers, volunteers and various community and corporate organizations. It will be paid for with some creative financing mostly reallocating and redirecting funds.
But key to the cleanup's success, Segarra said, is the community.
What went unsaid there is that some of the very members of the community are the ones responsible for Hartford's ubiquitously littered landscape and that getting residents to commit long-term to keeping the city clean is going to be the biggest challenge to the effort's success.
Harsh? Not even. Not a day goes by when I don't see someone dismissively toss something onto the city's streets, shake my head in disgust and think, "Did we learn nothing from the 'Crying Indian?' "
Laugh, if you're old enough to remember that 1971 anti-littering campaign, but it actually worked; at least on me. Now if only something could put a stop to the littering in Hartford.
Truth is we could have cleanups in the city every day, and probably get loads of people to volunteer, but unless residents keep it up and, yes, that probably means picking up garbage that's not yours the city's neighborhoods and parks and streets will remain littered messes.
Trust me; I learned that the hard way. Last year, fellow columnist Susan Campbell and I led a one-day cleanup of the Garden Street area. There was lots of talk then from residents about maintaining the upkeep. For the most part, that didn't happen.
That's beyond disappointing and, hopefully, not what's going to happen here because as Segarra said, this isn't a one-day, feel-good cleanup.
I hope he's right, because if not, this is all just going to be a lot of wasted energy, and money.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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