Chaplin Estates resident and realtor Donna Koegl has enjoyed walking on the beautiful Beltline Trail for nine years
But in the past few years, she’s noticed — as I have — that it has started to deteriorate.
Earlier this summer, she decided to form the Friends of the Beltline group and to organize a community clean-up day for this past Saturday.
She said she got plenty of support from the parks and recreation officials she contacted.
“I know how much we love this Beltline and I knew how many people would jump in,” she told me as she walked along a stretch of the popular trail, handing out bottled water to volunteers.
Jump in they certainly did.
Dozens of residents of the Avenue Rd.-Chaplin Cres. neighbourhood — including Councillor Josh Matlow and MPP Eric Hoskins — turned up to help clean a gem in the heart of the city that has been allowed by the city, its workers and the trail’s users to go to seed.
Scott Laver, a natural environment specialist with the city’s parks and recreation department, came with a truck filled with shovels, rakes, gloves and green garbage bags.
During the two hours I worked as a volunteer — with an emphasis on unpaid unlike my TTC friends who are compensated while helping out the United Way — I found everything from an old door, pieces of lattice and dried paint to a strand of pearls, candy wrappers and old coffee cups buried along the trail.
By the time the clean-up wrapped up around noon, piles and piles of twigs and old brush awaiting pick up by the city bordered a 750-metre stretch of the Beltline,
There’s no doubt those who have used the trail as a garbage dump should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.
That said, considering how much we accomplished in such a short time, the city parks and rec workers I see regularly patrolling the Beltline and the litter pickers who amble along picking up a few scraps here and there deserve to experience competition from private contractors for being so inefficient.
I can only imagine how long it will take the city crew and how many workers will be required come Monday morning to cart away the debris. I suspect they won’t be thrilled with the amount of work awaiting them.
Still, the neighbourhood clean-up has only begun.
Laver told me the idea is first to pick up the litter, the loose branches and other yard debris to allow the trail floor to regenerate. In the spring he hopes neighbourhood volunteers will help plant small trees and bushes.
“It is just fantastic how Donna has rallied the community,” he said. “This is a very engaged community.”
Without even knowing it, Koegl has launched an Adopt-a-Park (and trail) program in her Chaplin Estates neighbourhood.
Saturday’s experience was proof indeed that there are plenty of residents willing to volunteer their time to rehabilitate their neighbourhood green spaces.
The only thing that has stood in their way has been the pro-union mindset at City Hall over the past eight years that has not just discouraged, but vociferously fought, any attempts to allow volunteers to do what the city’s parks and rec workers are either unable or refuse to do to keep the city’s parks and green spaces up to scratch.
In fact, I still remember that summer of 2003 when outgoing CUPE 79 president Ann Dembinski dug her heels in and adamantly refused to allow city officials to pursue an Adopt-a-Park program.
Eight years later, we have parks all over the city that are in the same condition as the Beltline.
The unions may have gotten their way under former mayor David Miller.
But there is a new world order at City Hall, the unions are being given the message they are no longer in control and there are only so many fiscal resources to go around.
One hopes that initiatives like Koegl’s will sow the seeds of a new Adopt-a-Park movement in neighbourhood parks around the city.
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