The City of Stirling Council in inner Perth Western Australia has a fantastic community-led initiative called Adopt-a-Park, where members of the community take on volunteer positions as volunteer rangers.
From the City of Stirling website – “Both the community & the City value clean, well-maintained facilities that are cared for, attractive & safe. However, the actions of a minority who misuse or damage their local park are at odds with those values. Together with other like-minded people, you will be playing an active role in the life of your park, demonstrating to those few that misuse these public green spaces that their behaviour is unacceptable.” How wonderful it this!
There are two roles for volunteers –
1. ”Trusted guardians: who are active in the park.
2. Park neighbours: who are able to watch the park from their home during daylight hours.”
“The objectives of the project are to –
- Reduce anti-social behaviour & vandalism in parks & reserves
- Enhance the general appearance of the City of Stirling’s parks & reserves
- Educate & inform park users of local laws & initiatives, & provide feedback
- Promote & instill community pride in local parks & reserves
- Provide a sustainable future for one of the City’s major assets.”
Volunteers need to apply & be approved by the Council. They are provided with guidelines & suggested solutions to use at the scene, as well as official contacts for when they need to report something. The City of Stirling Council describes the initiative as a solution-focused approach.
Anyone reading this blog will know that I am often upset about the state of our parks, especially those along the Cooks River. People, many who come from other municipalities to enjoy the ambiance & the facilities of the park, treat Tempe Reserve like a tip. They literally toss what they are finished eating out beyond the picnic kiosks, even though a garbage bin is 2-metres away. Balloons are tied to kiosks & just left there. Burning coals are tossed into the river, into garden beds, against tree trunks or onto the lawn. I am told the same happens in Kendrick & Steel Parks also along the Cooks River.
Sports players leave countless plastic bottles scattered around the edges of the playing fields after the game. Fishermen leave lengths of fishing line along the riverbank.
The litter looks ugly & some of it smells. It is grossly polluting to river & has been incredibly harmful causing much suffering to the wildlife. Yet it never stops.
Wouldn’t community guardians be a wonderful solution for this problem? I’ll do it. I know others who would sign up too. We are all very frustrated watching this selfish behaviour happening in our parks. Having the right to peacefully approach park users to address the issue would most likely result in a huge improvement. If they get aggressive, the volunteer would just leave & submit an incident report. It would also stop the cars being driven into the park if Council sent a warning notice through the mail the following week.
I once wore a Council fluorescent yellow hat given to me at a Marrickville Council event into a park & amazingly, people started cleaning up even though all I did was walk past them. Imagine what a Marrickville Council t-shirt & an authority card would accomplish.
I spoke with some Marrickville Council workers recently who said they too are frustrated by the litter in the parks along the river. They said collect by hand 4 garbage bins of litter, including fishing line every day. This is over & above emptying the multiple garbage bins scattered around the park.
We have had bliss over winter, but good weather Saturday week ago brought people back to Tempe Reserve. A visit the following day showed that the barbeque was so disgusting it was unusable. Litter had blown everywhere & hot coals were dumped on the grass. Here we go again.
I fervently believe that it is in the community’s best interests for Marrickville Council to address the issue of litter & destruction of infrastructure & trees in our parks. Every time someone destroys something, the community pays. We pay out of our rates & also by the loss of beauty in what is nationally regarded as a municipality with a severe shortage of green space. This green space is enormously important for our health on a number of levels so if it is destroyed, we pay in this way also.
Of equal importance in my view is the wildlife. They should be able to have safe places for them to live & forage. They should not be navigating a minefield of often-dangerous litter.
What I particularly like about what the City of Stirling is doing is that the program is designed to promote pride in the environment & this could have a number of positive roll-on effects. If people start to consider their impact on the park & on other users of the park, then they also might think twice before dumping their mattress or other unwanted goods in a back street.
The community should not have to have their rates continuously spent on cleaning up after others without anything meaningful done to try & change what are essentially easily changeable behaviours. If this paradigm is not challenged Council will always have a small budget available to improve the streetscapes & parks. Instigating an Adopt a Park initiative will go a long way to stopping the never-ending cycle of selfish behaviours that detract on the enjoyment & usability of our parks & just may improve all our future, wildlife included.