Chicago Public Spaces and Parks a Disgrace: What are the Consequences When we Do Whatever We Want?

We Have Freedoms and Privileges… But What Happens When we Abuse Them?

redwingbird

Last year it hit me, so to speak, and I have spent months wondering what to do about this situation…

Maybe get out my own broom, mop, dustpan, trash can, trash bags, gloves and boots and get to the parks and clean them up myself?

That is what I gladly would have done had I those resources and the time to improve a particular section of Grant Park. I wanted to take a nice walk along Michigan Avenue in sunny weather, to clear my head, get away from work for a while, and ground to the natural world to get some good Earth energy. What met my eyes and other senses was enough to make me want to get back to the hard sidewalk (not much cleaner) and go back to where I work.

 Grant Park Scene

In that one stretch of what would have been nice green space and good space were cigarette butts enough to take over the grass, evidence of pet and human waste, trash and enough detritus to make it seem that area of the park had not been cleaned in weeks.

That is what I have encountered in parks and beaches all over Chicago- litter and trash blowing about or embedded in the ground, glass shards, food waste, pet waste, cigarette material including butts and containers … and all in sight of trash cans someone could easily walk or ride a few steps over to deposit the waste.

View Towards Downtown Chicago from Lincoln Park Bridge near the Zoo.

View Towards Downtown Chicago from Lincoln Park Bridge near the Zoo.

Do we dare think ourselves in America civilized and progressive? Hah, I think not. We are about as crude, lazy, disgusting and indecent as people can get. I think people whom we dismiss as “Neanderthals” were more civilized than we are… we ought to be ashamed of how we are treating our public spaces and how little attention we are paying to the others who want to use them and enjoy them, who want as I did to get away from the office and have a good lunch or a nice walk in the parks that line the “Magnificent Mile. We want a place to step into the fresh grass, see the fine trees and flowers, and get in touch with the energies of the universe that can revitalize and inspire us, that wonderful world of nature.

But this is awfully hard to do when the park walks are cracked and jutting and uneven and littered. It is hard to do when there is human waste in evidence, which is not only unsightly but can be dangerous. Suppose someone touches it, or steps in it, which in the former case could lead to disease and in the latter is tracked into cars, busses, trains, your place of work, the restaurants, the schools, the museums, maybe your condo or apartment. Kids and pets are curious about lots of things and they could easily touch it, lick it, or put their noses into it. Wastes endanger people and pets, so when you leave wastes around you are creating a public nuisance. By your disordered and crude thinking you are endangering others. How pitiful and how disgusting and how uncivilized. EEWWW.

Come on, folks, think right: you have rights, privileges and freedoms, but do not abuse them. Think of others for a change and get some discipline in your lives. If you are going to be around others (the public) then you have to respect the rights, privileges and freedoms of everyone around you. If you start to get that sly, foxy look and frame of mind as you walk the streets chewing on that burger or banana and you think, “Oh, I’ll just dump the paper here, no one will notice,” (what cave did you crawl out of?) you bet someone will notice, the person who has to clean up after you or steps in that stuff and gets it on their new shoes. Take the few steps to the nearest trash can and dump the refuse in there and then quietly go your way.

You pay taxes to keep the parks clean and others pay taxes too, for the purpose of having spaces to enjoy. Respecting others is simply a matter and part of being a good citizen, something you should have learned from an early stage of life. You don’t just throw down your garbage and expect that others will clean up after you because “it is their job”. Cleaning up is a matter of safety for yourself and others.  It is disgusting to litter and “do your think” in a public setting, so just don’t do that. And do not eat or drink on public transit. Ever seen a train car or a bus littered with sunflower seeds, banana peels, chip bags, disposable cups and candy bar wrappers and gum stuck to places others touch? YECCH.

As for the personnel of the Park District, I bring to your attention Bughouse Square, which one year before the Chicago Marathon was littered with cigarette refuse, other trash, dog waste and leaf litter, a disgrace for people visiting to see and have to deal with. In fact I went back to my apartment and took out a broom and went to the park to try and clean up a little bit of it. It got so disgusting after a while I shook off the broom and went to do other things, wondering why it looked like that part of the Gold Coast had not been touched in a long time.

ChiNash2013 093

Wood Duck in Stunning Plumage.

Lincoln Park is also just as bad: cracked and crumbling walking paths that jut bodies and bikes and are uneven and dangerous, litter everywhere, cigarette crud that is toxic and unsightly, trash blowing about, remains of picnics, food waste. It is not even a thought to want to step on the grassy areas in that (should be) beautiful park because of the junk that is in those spaces. Areas north towards the 2800 and 3000’s areas of Chicago also have parks that are in terrible shape. These parks are close to homes, schools, hospitals, hotels and restaurants and museums.

Where is the money for the parks and public spaces going? I think any concerned citizen should get down to finding out.

In the meanwhile, we concerned citizens might just have to use our own brooms, gloves, tarps, mops, trash cans and trash bags and clean the parks up ourselves, using the wonderful concept of the neighborhood cleanup day to do just that the moment we have weather good enough to do that in. We should consider the parks as we would our own yards and keep them clean. We can see them from our living spaces after all, and most city dwellers do not have a real yard, so we have the parks and beaches we all should be able to enjoy and love.

What we love and enjoy we ordinarily want to take care of, right? When you get something precious as a gift you want to have it for a long time and take good care of it. The parks are a precious natural resources set aside for everyone, that’s right EVERYONE, to enjoy, to go to and commune with nature, to romp around with family and friends, to take a quiet walk or a bike ride, to walk the dog or to stroll the baby. Naturally if you walk the dog it is up to YOU to clean up after the pet totally and thoroughly and leave no trace of where you have been. Dispose of the waste in a trash can, tightly wrapped to prevent odors escaping. Change the baby before going out. If you eat, dispose of your trash in the proper receptacle, and that is not including park benches, the ground, or any surface. Trash goes in trash cans.

Black-crowned Night Herons from part of a Colony in Lincoln Park.

Black-crowned Night Herons from part of a Colony in Lincoln Park.

Take care of what you have, including your dignity and your fellow citizens.

Divi Logan, Chicago, 2014.

RESOURCES

1. Wikipedia contributors. “Grant Park (Chicago).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 Dec. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

Photographs taken with a LEICA V-LUX-4 bridge camera.

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