Scouts shocked at volume of trash in city park

Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Members and parents of Cub Scouts Troop 76 pick up trash at the Cassville City Park Saturday afternoon as part of a scouting project to better the community, but scouts did not plan on just how much trash, including broken glass and hundreds of cigarette butts, there would be to pick up. Julia Kilmer

Police Chief: 'It's a lack of respect'

While picking up trash for a community service project at the Cassville City Park Saturday, members of Cub Scout Troop 76, and their parents, were surprised at just how much trash there was to pick up.

"I had no idea there would be so much trash here," said Carlin Lakey, scout parent. "And, there are receptacles everywhere."

Along with a wide variety of trash, including styrofoam cups, used ketchup packages, fast food packaging, miscellaneous paper, pop bottle lids and even wire and broken glass, the park was littered with hundreds of cigarette butts.

"We were surprised how much trash there is," said Pam Kraft, parent. "Last year, I thought they had no smoking signs, and you would think that if there were signs that said that, then all those cigarette butts wouldn't be here, but there are kids here at night."

"The park needed a clean up it for sure," said Scout Leader Mike Driskill. "I would encourage the patrons of this park to use the ample trash containers that are available to keep the park looking nice."

Steve Walensky, public works director for the city, said there are "no littering" signs in the park, but people are currently allowed to smoke. However they are throwing trash and cigarette butts on the ground, verses using the trash cans provided.

"It's an ongoing battle we've had in our parks department," he said. "We provide extra trash cans and post signs, but it's always a mess. There's no way to police that. They want to throw trash on the ground and break things, causing us to have to clean it up.

"So, we appreciate very much any volunteers who can clean it up. The littering tends to be centered around the tennis court areas. There are kids who congregate there."

Walensky said trash is such a problem in the park that staff from the parks department typically spend about one full hour every day picking it up.

"I wish more people would take notice, because it's certainly disheartening to have that go on there," he said. "It's tough for us to have time to clean it."

Cassville City Police Chief Dana Kammerlohr agreed.

"It's on ongoing problem as far as people not using the trash cans and littering the park," she said.

Kammerlohr said police can, and have, picked up people for littering in the park, and can write a summons for offenders. But unfortunately, there is not enough manpower to police the park, which is open to the public until midnight, when it closes and reopens at 6 a.m.

"I know the officers have been here and caught people and made them clean up the park," she said. "The problem gets better, then it gets worse, so we do extra patrols in the park. It's for public use, and we wish people would respect that, but there's a few that don't."

Kammerlohr did not think closing the park to the public earlier would help resolve the problem.

"That would be a city council and public works director decision," she said. "I don't think it would help, because some use the tennis courts up until midnight. So, when it's just a few that are littering, that wouldn't be fair to those who aren't. It's a public park, so I'm not for sure if it's people locally or outside our immediate area. I have checked with other police departments and it's an ongoing problem.

"We have some young people that respect the park and remind others that there are trash cans there to use."

Kammerlohr said community service projects through the courts are sometimes utilized to help clean up the park.

"Our public works person works with the juvenile office, and we have also had drug court participants pick up trash," she said. "I would encourage people to pick up their trash. People don't think throwing cigarettes on the ground is littering, and maybe you don't notice one, but you do notice 50.

"It's just lack of respect. I don't think people would do that at their house and in their own driveways."

Kammerlohr said regardless of who is guilty of the offense, littering hurts everyone.

"In the long run, it does cost citizens as a whole, because the public works department is doing extra work, and the police are doing are extra patrols."

The city started the beginning stages of renovation work to the tennis, basketball and shuffle ball courts at the city park this week. The total project's cost is $64,175.

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