The clean up at Mifflin Square this past Saturday was far more of a success than I thought it would be. I had a lot of trouble finding people to come out and help out, for one because I don't know anyone who lives in that area (I myself live about a five minute bike ride away, which in terms of community and parks, is pretty far). Also, I kind of dropped the ball with fliering and only managed to post announcements here, in Parking, on facebook, and on craigslist (I guess no one looks at the volunteer section of CL. . .).
As I pedaled down to the park Saturday morning, I was surprised to see a group of people in blue t-shirts out, sweeping and raking and carrying garbage bags. Maybe they saw the Craigslist post, or read Phillyist!, I thought, and also: they have this organization that just swoops in to volunteer at things like this.
Not quite. Turns out they were from Sysco, which is a giant food distribution company (if you've ever worked at a restaurant in Philly, you've gotten deliveries from them). And it was purely happenstance that they were cleaning up that day. By the time I got there at 10AM, they had picked up most of the litter. I was very glad about that, because Mifflin Square is a fairly large sized park and I was kind of dreading cleaning it (but then, I dread most new and unfamiliar things at first, then end up enjoying them). Our small group, made up of me, my partner, and people from the Dept of Recreation and PA Horticultural Society, set to work on the trees. The Horticultural Society had planted some magnolia trees near the center of the Square. Unfortunately, people have their dogs pee on them, and their kids pull on the small branches, which hurts the trees, so they needed to be pruned. Also, we needed to rake glass clippings away from the base of the tree, because that is the most delicate part of the tree and the wet grass traps in moisture and creates an unhealthy situation.
After the trees were taken care of, we were next going to till an area of dirt that was compacted down because the locals had built bleachers and a bar (ie an alcohol selling bar) over top. The bar was the straw that broke the camel's back for the Dept. of Recreation, since you know, it's illegal to sell booze without a license and to drink it openly outdoors. However, the tiller would not start. And all the people from the community were watching, a bit confused as to what these people were doing, and why their bar was taken down. An explanation was given to them, but it didn't seem to really sink in. There is a large Cambodian population in that neighborhood, so the Dept. of Recreation is making signs in Cambodian explaining that booze is not allowed in the park (empties were a huge litter issue).
Despite the lack of tiller, the clean up was great. I don't have photos right now, but hope to get a chance to take some soon (the swings aren't chained together anymore!). We got a great response from some people who were just hanging out in the park and are hoping to do another one soon, so as always, contact me if you want to help.