WHITNEY: Clean up after yourselves

When people ask me what I like about living in Big Rapids, I usually say, “Well, it’s really pretty.”

It is, isn’t it? We are surrounded by farmland and forests, with streams and rivers running through it all. Cute downtown where sometimes you can find something cool happening. We have lots of greenspace within the city limits, a few nice parks and some pretty entertaining playgrounds.

In fact, while swinging in Hemlock Park last summer during a festival of some sort, a woman told me how much she loved our park and the Playscape, noting she had nothing like it in her hometown. She was from Traverse City. I feel like that says a lot.

So when I say what I’m about to say, know it comes from a place of love. Motherly love!

We need to take a bit better care of our parks.

We’re savoring the dog days of summer, so we’ve been out and about to the parks four or more days a week lately. Just in the past two weeks, we’ve found broken and worn out equipment. I leaned on a Playscape structure last week and a board came loose. There are fraying rubber hoses covering some of the obstacles, most of the boards are covered in graffiti and paint is chipping everywhere. The park is nearing its 20th anniversary. Maybe it’s time for some rehab.

At Northend Riverside Park, where the play equipment appears to be newer, there are still lose chin-up bars and one of the kids’ cranes has a broken scoop.

No matter where you go, there’s bound to be trash under foot, despite trash cans dotting the boundaries of the play areas. I can’t figure this out. We kind of joke about the apparent Big Rapids tradition that is eating pizza at the park. I mean, it’s a great idea and I fully intend to eat a pizza at the Playscape before summer’s end. But I’m also planning on throwing my used napkins, bottles and wrappers into the proper waste receptacles when I’m done.

And — ahem — it would be nice if those who choose to get frisky in the park after dark could throw away their used condoms when they’re done with them. There’s little kids stomping around in those wood chips, jerks. Before you get mad at me for mentioning it here, get mad about the fact this really happens and I’m probably not the only one to come upon the evidence.

Writing this, I feel a little bit like The Simpson’s Helen Lovejoy, shouting “Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?!” But I think we’ve got a good thing going in this town, and I think a happy combination of local government response and citizen support could go a long way in keeping our parks lookin’ good.

So throw away your trash. Make sure your kids throw away their trash. Encourage them to throw away trash they find while playing. (We do it!) If you find something broken, report it to the parks and rec people. Let’s keep our parks beautiful.