Ferndale Area Volunteers Make Repeat Visits to Cleanup Bell Isle Park

Ferndale Area Volunteers Make Repeat Visits to Cleanup Bell Isle Park

(Rebecca Phoenix, June 28, 2020)

Detroit, MI – For the past few weeks, a group of friends, neighbors and coworkers from the Ferndale/Hazel Park area in Oakland County have been working together on cleaning up Belle Isle State Park.

The officially unofficial group began with a Facebook event posted by Chelsea Schroeter. “I decided to post a Facebook status to get an idea of how many of my friends would be interested in volunteering to help clean up the island. I had an overwhelming amount of people respond positively to the idea, so I created an event page and had people spread the word and share the event.” Said Chelsea Schroeter.

After an avalanche of support Chelsea enlisted the help of close friends Michael Champagne and Caleigh Carlesimo. With over 300 interested and 69 shares 77 ended attending the first cleanup day.

The organizers initially sent out the call to their friends and coworkers, many of whom were out of work service staff in the Ferndale area. As the event page reads they were inspired to clean up because …”The weekend left our favorite place trashed, let’s get together and clean up what we can…”.

Genevieve Nowak of the Belle Isle Conservancy Office reached out to Chelsea to donate cleaning supplies to the group and to collect data on trash removed and volunteer attendance. Many volunteers brought their own supplies as well as extra supplies. Still more people who couldn’t attend the event donated supplies to the organizers. Leftover perishable supplies like snacks and water were later passed on to peaceful protests happening in Detroit and the Metro-Detroit area.

When asked who or why people might be leaving their trash on the island organizer Caleigh said “Lots of people litter, whether they mean to or not. Plus with the coronavirus, a lot of the staff at state parks were laid off so the park wasn’t getting cleaned regularly and there weren’t regular garbage services. When we went after Memorial Day, all of the trash cans were full and trash was surrounding it. So it was probably also an issue of poor planning, forgetting to bring an extra trash bag just in case, etc.”

In the six hours spent cleaning up the park, organizer Michael said that he watched three different families all utilize a pavilion after they had cleared it of trash and all three times more trash was left in the structures.

The state park has been understaffed since the beginning of the coronavirus-related closures. As the signs indicate around the park, Belle Isle is encouraging a “carry in-carry out” policy, where visitors take any trash that they bring in with them back out of the park.

Even though Waste Management dumpsters are located around the island, it’s evident by the 111 bags of trash, a new grill (complete with box) and a tire, many visitors are not leaving Belle Isle, as the school saying goes “better than they found it”

The June 1st cleanup effort was preceded by another small event where volunteers had cleaned up the beaches. Another event titled “Lets Clean Up Belle Isle” commenced on the following Sunday on June 7th held by residents of West Village in Detroit. The June 7th event pulled in 57 volunteers between the June 1st and June 7th events 232 bags of trash were removed from the island. With the amount of trash collected by the June 1st event, it appears that subsequent visitors failed to properly dispose of their trash. The organizer of “Lets clean up Belle Isle” has tentatively planned another day of clean up for July 11th after the 4th of July weekend. Still another event is planned for Sunday, June 28th, by Hand in Hand, a new racial equality group based in the city of Detroit. What’s clear is that citizens both in and out of Detroit are concerned with the treatment of the parks and committed to changing them.

Many of the 50 plus volunteers cleaned the park while they waited for the downtown protests that night to begin. Some were cleaning after a day of protests as a way of relaxation. Still, others cleaned as their own act of protest. Whatever the reason, all volunteers performed an act of love for Belle Isle and the city of Detroit.

The organizers of the “Clean up Belle Isle!” event are interested in holding another clean up event organizer Michael said “We are definitely interested in cleaning Belle Isle again but are also currently looking into cleaning other parks and places in need throughout Detroit and its Metro area.”

Organizers wanted to leave attendants to Belle Isle and other public parks with these messages to keep Michigan parks beautiful.

Oakland County Times asked some of the volunteers what they would say to those who litter on the island.

Chelsey said “Please pick up after yourselves and bring a garbage bag or 2 when you’re going to Belle Isle or any park or beach. We don’t want our garbage to end up in the water that we use.”

Caleigh said “Please be more respectful and mindful of our planet! you may think it’s someone else’s job, or that it doesn’t really matter but it absolutely does! the trash from the parks still ends up in our great lakes and even our oceans, and it’s hurting our planet. even at least minimal effort from everyone would make a huge difference”

And Michael said “As we were leaving we saw multiple people litter right outside their cars. My words would be to clean up after yourself, teach younger generations to clean up after themselves and to always offer to help others clean. Most importantly we need to reprimand those who litter and offer assistance in teaching good practices.”

Future cleanups are likely.  There is no organized page or group  for them, simple search for “Belle Isle clean” on Facebook.

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