Residents spruced up Grays Ferry blocks and a riverfront trail as a part of a citywide litter reduction effort Saturday.
Those passing by the 1600 block of South Ringgold Street Saturday might have thought there was a block party happening based on the crowd, the music and the abundance of food.
Instead, it was the Grays Ferry block’s way of participating in the sixth annual Philly Spring Cleanup with residents of all ages and Mayor Michael Nutter starting the cleaning party at 9 a.m.
“He was enthusiastic. His speech was really nice,” block captain and resident of 10 years Elaine Roache said of the mayor. “He told us who to contact if we wanted to keep this up and get supplies like paint.
The event — sponsored by Power 99 FM, the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee and All-City Classic, an organization that engages youth in athletic and and civic activities — also included tidying up the 1500 to the 1700 blocks of South Taylor and 24th streets.
Volunteers cleared three Taylor-Street and two Ringgold-Street lots of trash and weeds and beautified each site with mulch and flowers. Some residents even made flower pots for in front of their house.
Neighbors provided hot dogs, hamburgers, fruit and beverages for the volunteers, but there was a lot of preparation done prior to the event as well.
“All week long I was recruiting people and explaining that volunteers are coming out to clean up our blocks, but we can’t do it all by ourselves — that we needed the participation from the neighborhood,” Roache said.
The resident was astonished yet elated to see all of the young helpers taking part.
“I was really shocked by all of the young people that came out because there was really a lot of them,” Roache said. “In the beginning, they were just watching then they started grabbing the brooms and [helped] clean up.
Across the city more than 13,000 volunteers collected more than one million pounds of trash and 23,000 pounds of recyclables, according to the City.
Back at Ringgold Street’s cleaning celebration, Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee clean block officer Bill Stern also was thrilled with the outcome.
“It turned out really well. There was a lot of the community out here,” Stern said. “We had about 300 people out here cleaning from 9 a.m. and started to wind down around 11. We ended up with about 150 bags of trash out here that are getting picked up.”
Despite the success of the first cleanup on the 1600 block of South Ringgold Street, residents felt this is just the beginning. Roache and neighbors, like Tim Jones who has lived on the block for 23 years, hope to hold more cleanups that will get the neighborhood involved, especially the younger residents.
“The kids need something to do and having cleanups help keep them involved,” Jones said. “I think it would be better if we had cleanups later in the day so we can get more young people to help.
For Roache, who is outside picking up trash everyday, caring for the block is crucial.
“It is important that we keep our neighborhoods clean, this is where we live and we need to help keep it clean everyday,” Roache said.
|Mayor Michael A. Nutter, center, joined the clean-up crew on the 1600 block of South Ringgold Street to clear three vacant lots and perform a painting project.|
About a mile away, busses dropped off Drexel and Bucknell universities students and alumni at the Schuylkill River to volunteer with residents cleaning up South Philly’s relatively new waterfront trail addition.
Focusing on the Schuylkill River Trail’s Grays Ferry Crescent portion, Wharton Street and Schuylkill Avenue, the cleanup spanned from 34th and Wharton streets to the eastern edge of the river.
The central Pennsylvania and University City higher-education facilities have played an active role in different volunteer programs that the Schuylkill River Development Corp. has held over the years.
“We have over a hundred people signed up today, including a huge number [of students] from Drexel Universtiy as well as a large Bucknell alumni group,” Joshua Nims, Operations Manager of, the University City-based nonprofit overseeing the river’s revitalization, said Saturday.
The organization’s employees were excited to hold their first Philly Spring Cleanup at the Southern end of the trail, which opened in June with areas for visitors to picnic, sit or fish.
“We love doing the spring cleanup every year,” Danielle Gray, its director of marketing and development, said. “This is the first year we have concentrated our efforts down here rather than Center City and we had a fantastic team come out.”
The group hoped the cleanup would help to introduce the trail to more residents and get them involved with the park, where it plans to hold future summer movie nights on the Crescent at the Grays Ferry Esplanade, which will connect to Southwest Philly’s Bartram Gardens and expand between South and Catharine streets in the near future.
“This is the first time the Philly Spring Cleanup has been held since this trail has been open, so we really wanted to engage the community, introduce people to the park and trail. Also, this is a big section of the trail that still needs a lot of landscaping,” Gray said.
Throughout the morning there were different groups working on different tasks, such as picking up trash, weeding, mulching and painting old fire hydrants. With such a great turnout, some residents, who originally came to the trail to walk or to go fishing, approached the group leaders to ask how they can volunteer.
For some residents, like Jim Gora, volunteering Saturday was a way to give back to the new place he and his wife could walk their dog everyday.
“I have been living here for 38 years, and we have never had this trail,” the resident of 36th and Reed streets said. “To see what they did here is amazing. It does a lot for the city and for our neighborhood. It’s a great thing they’ve done down here.
That involvement from community members is the key to keeping a park for the people.
“Once you have a park down here, you have to get people engaged on volunteer days. Seeing people who are already down here to fish and decide to help is amazing,” Nims said. “You cannot have a park without community support, so it’s important to have days like today.”
Contact the South Philly Review at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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