By Walter Munday
Metro Parks and Recreation Outreach Manager
Parks were created to be enjoyed by people and preserved for future generations. Parks are great for the environment. They protect and conserve biodiversity by keeping our air and water clean. Just think of all the beautiful plants and animals you see when strolling around your neighborhood/community park.
To address rising obesity and health challenges in cities across the nation, city officials and healthcare providers are looking to Park and Recreation agencies to increase its marketing appeal to attract even more people to our parks. But, there is a bit of a paradox … as we market and promote our parks and outdoor recreational amenities as popular destination spots, we must be prepared for the consequences of the increased human footprint. More people in parks means… more trash. But it doesn’t have to be.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American tosses 4.4 pounds of trash every single day. It may not seem all that astonishing on the surface, but with 323.7 million people living in the United States, that’s roughly 728,000 tons of daily garbage – enough to fill 63,000 garbage trucks.
The EPA reports that Kentucky produces 28.7 tons of trash annually. That ranks Kentucky 8th on the list of US states with the highest tonnage of waste per person. These statistics don’t fully account for the amount of trash discarded along our roads, parks and across the nation’s waterways that never gets picked-up. Litter poses some major problems for our natural habitat.
To address this need, Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation employees work hard to keep our parks clean and beautiful. It’s impossible for our employees to retrieve all trash in our parks within our regularly scheduled park maintenance schedule. Even while on the clock, it’s still impossible for our employees to keep 13,000 acres trash-free on a regular basis. Volunteers are one of our greatest assets! They come individually and in groups. Some are local while others are visiting from out of town, both with the simple goal of positively improving the aesthetics and health of our city’s greenspace.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. and Ms. Senior; a beautiful South Louisville couple strolling around Iroquois Park. They’re routine walkers and ballroom dancers. What caught my attention was the little bag Mr. Senior was carrying. Mr. Senior said that he and his wife love Iroquois Park, and they wanted to do their part to keep their park beautiful. What a wonderful testimony! The Seniors are a pleasant example of the thousands of volunteers who not only love their parks, but partner with us to help maintain them.
Yes… trash is a problem, and our staff is working hard to ensure trash is collected and disposed of. But… this is an ongoing problem in which park staff can’t fix alone. We need Louisvillians to love our parks, and to help us keep them clean. All so often, we find trash skewed around the base of an empty trash can by someone who missed a jump shot. Or, overfilled trash cans routinely victimized illegal dumpers. We need your help. If a couple in their 90s can walk and pick-up trash along their route in Iroquois Park, surely any of us can do the same in our favorite parks!