Pittsfield Cleans Up Its Act: Neighborhood Pick Up Efforts Booming this Spring

Pittsfield Cleans Up Its Act
Neighborhood Pick Up Efforts Booming this Spring 
By Joe Durwin

The city’s Morningside neighborhood was abuzz last weekend with volunteers working to spruce it up, from trash collection to flower planting, the most recent in a series of well attended efforts to clean up parts of Pittsfield this Spring.

 Representatives of the Morningside Neighborhood Initiative said that one hundred forty-seven people took advantage of an offer Saturday morning for free disposal of furniture and other refuse.  Approximately eighty car loads of unwanted items and materials dropped off at Morningside Community School filled four industrial dumpsters rented out by the group in under two hours.  On top of the dumpsters, a vast quantity of tires were picked up by Pittsfield Mosquito Control, and about one hundred fifty televisions and appliances were accepted that morning by the Goodwill Industries facility across the street, according to an employee there.
“It was very successful,” said Gail Krumpholz, who chairs Morningside’s steering committee, “We got a ton of tires, and mattresses, things people might otherwise dump somewhere else.”

On nearby Cherry Street, other neighbors were busily planting 716 flowers donated by Pittsfield Garden Tour to the Berkshire Dream Center, for enhancing the landscape of their home street.  
“What we’re doing is handing them out to the residents to plant themselves, and the city is allowing us to plant on the public parts of the street around every tree,” said Katelynn Chapman, who formed the Center four years ago with the aim of neighborhood improvement.

“We stepped it up a notch this year,” said Chapman, who explained the Dream Center now coordinates litter clean ups every Monday and Wednesday, along with every other Saturday, on its expanding network of “adopted” streets.  Cherry, Lincoln, 2nd and Burbank Streets are currently among the streets adopted for ongoing care and attention, and then expanding out to the sidestreets that branch out from them.
“Clean up teams go out and pick up trash, rake leaves, we even clean the city gutters,” said Chapman, who described large attendance at its recent clean ups. “The goal is to eventually span all over the city. One street at a time.”

Other recent clean up efforts have also seen high levels of participation.  The previous week, a 15th annual Downtown Corporate Cleanup saw a record attendance, of over 150 volunteers, according to Downtown Pittsfield Inc. Executive Director Pamela Tobin.  While the annual afternoon work party of trash pick up and street sweeping was initially started by downtown merchants, the project has been increasingly augmented by large contingents from non-downtown major employers such as General Dynamic and SABIC, the latter of which received the event’s “Biggest Impact” award for dispatching 68 employees to help.

On April 20, the 24th Annual Friends of Springside Park clean up also saw its biggest turn out in at least a decade. Over the course of seven hours, around 65 residents, including 22 students of adjacent Reid Middle School, swarmed over the 237 acres of the city’s largest park to haul out over two tons of refuse.

“I feel like we’ve really turned a corner,” said Royal Hartigan, a founding member of the Friends, noting that due to the large attendance and increased frequency of group and individual efforts, large areas of the park were less cluttered  than in the past and volunteers were able to tackle some more in depth remediation of long term problem areas.

Experts say the increasing trend of youth participation in these kind of outdoor clean up efforts can have a powerful positive effect.  A 1999 paper in the Journal of Environmental Education found that students who had participated in this kinds of hand on outdoor clean up exhibited greater intentions to behave in ecologically responsible ways, while a 2006 study in Psychological Science further indicates that heightened, hands on exposure of this sort to public park areas has been correlated with a decrease in sedentary activity in youth.

“Being able to take action and make a difference is addictive,” adds Berkshire Environmental Action Team Director Jane Winn. “If we all realized that our individual actions can led to big changes, I think more of us would take action.”

For challenged neighborhoods like Pittsfield’s Morningside area, that difference may be a key to important changes.

“We’re hoping that the clean ups, and the flowers and things, will help reduce crime and other problems eventually,” said Chapman, who noted that while in past years Dream Center clean ups were apt to find a certain number of used needles on the ground, this year they haven’t.  “The more clean and the more beautiful, I hope people start to think that sort of stuff isn’t tolerated.”