Many citizens blame the city for the copious trash across San Angelo from Saturday’s Fourth of July festivities in one way or another.
Locals suggested several actions for the city to take in order to help to resolve this issue. These suggestions include providing more trashcans in parks, creating a system to reward those who throw away trash or even closing parks altogether during holidays.
City and county officials are currently discussing a solution to this problem; however, officials also encourage individuals to take responsibility for their own mess.
“I don’t know what to be blaming the city for,” Operations Director Shane Kelton said. “They’re parks, and if we’re going to have a park system we’re going to allow the people to utilize the park system. We wouldn’t want to close the parks from people being able to use [them] otherwise that kind of defeats the purpose of having a park system in place.”
The garbage was not isolated to the city alone; Commissioner Bill Ford expressed his distaste for the way visitors treated county parks.
“These are public parks,” Ford said. “The public held responsibilities when they use that park is to clean up after themselves. And this was abused way beyond the scope of what we would expect out of people, to leave this amount of trash laying on the ground, and just expecting the county or city or whoever’s supposed to pick it up for them.”
Cleanup crews spent the week picking up messes throughout the city and county. Despite the efficiency of these crews, both Ford and Kelton pointed out that they can be expensive.
“It takes a lot of taxpayer dollars to have all of my employees clean up everyone else’s trash,” Kelton said. “So if people clean up their own trash, then in the long run, it saves our taxpayers and our citizens money because of that.”
If Ford received approval from commissioner’s court, he would have the authority to close the parks in his precinct. He and Kelton, however, said that closing parks is the last measure that they want to take.
Kelton claims that the city continues to add trash receptacles to parks each year, especially around Lake Nasworthy. He was adamant that “tons and tons” of trash can capacity is available to visitors of these parks. He also mentioned that a city ordinance requires citizens to take charge of their own garbage when these dumpsters are full.
According to Ford, the county can easily police the cleanliness of parks in his precinct throughout the vast majority of the year. Ford called the amount of trash in Foster Park, including garbage which had blown into Spring Creek, “unacceptable.”
“It’s not our job to pick up after them like that,” Ford said. “You know, if we don’t have rules that we can enforce and prevent this from happening, then we can just lock the gates and close the parks. That’s not going to be popular at all. It was not popular at Twin Buttes, but you better find a better funding source to pay for the cleanup or you just close it down.”
Kelton pointed out how difficult it is to police litterers on the lake when such a large amount of people are present.
“It’s one of those things that you just have to rely on people to do what’s right,” Kelton said. “Some people do and, of course, some people don’t. That’s just the way it goes.”
According to Kelton, most parks in the city were “in pretty good shape” by Wednesday. As cleanups come to a close, the city and county will continue to discuss ways to keep parks clean during summer holidays.
“We just have a whole bunch of people who have a total disregard for someone else’s property,” Ford said. “It wasn’t that way when I was a young man. Maybe it’s just a different mindset.”