Trinity Bellwoods got trashed but some people keeping parks clean during pandemic

·3 min read
Daniel Dibaba says Dentonia Park has been much busier during the COVID-19 pandemic. But unlike some city parks, he hasn't noticed more littering. (Trevor Dunn/CBC - image credit)
Daniel Dibaba says Dentonia Park has been much busier during the COVID-19 pandemic. But unlike some city parks, he hasn't noticed more littering. (Trevor Dunn/CBC - image credit)

For Daniel Dibaba and his two young children, Dentonia Park has been their go-to spot for the past year.

The East York park, near Victoria Park and Danforth avenues., is a short walk away from Dibaba's apartment building. The family makes at least one trip to the playground per day, and they're not the only ones.

"In the afternoon, it is packed here," Dibaba said on a recent morning while his children and others played nearby.

"It's a lot of kids, a lot of people."

Like many parks and public spaces, this one is getting much more use during the pandemic, with schools and other amenities closed.

But while some of those spaces are experiencing issues with litter, Dibaba says the local community recognizes the importance of the outdoors right now and has been making sure to keep the park clean.

The trash and recycling bins at Dentonia Park were neat and tidy on a recent morning.
The trash and recycling bins at Dentonia Park were neat and tidy on a recent morning.(Trevor Dunn/CBC)

"People are putting the trash in the proper place. Nothing is here," Dibaba said, referring to the lack of litter around the playground.

On his morning visits, Dibaba also notes that he often sees City of Toronto staff cleaning and maintaining the park.

On Monday, Mayor John Tory said the job of reducing litter in municipal parks is a "partnership" between city staff and park users.

"All of us have to do better at keeping our parks clean of litter," Tory said.

His comments specifically referenced Trinity Bellwoods and came shortly after yet another busy weekend for the popular park. Photos posted to social media on May 16 show the park littered with plastic cups, takeout food containers and paper bags.

In response, the city is deploying 79 new trash and recycling bins to seven parks, with 20 of them going to Trinity Bellwoods. High Park, Christie Pits, Grange Park, Alexandra Park, Dufferin Grove and Victoria Memorial Park are the other destinations.

"Those bins must be accompanied by park visitors doing the right thing by putting their garbage in or at the very least beside those bins," Tory said Monday.

More litter during pandemic

Larger crowds and the trash they leave behind have been an ongoing issue at city parks during the pandemic.

Last summer, residents complained of litter at Woodbine Beach in Toronto's east end. Discarded masks and other PPE have also been frequently found scattered around the city.

Tim Horton's litter found at Woodbine Beach. According to a city of Toronto litter audit, Tim Horton's accounted for 20 per cent of all branded litter.
Tim Horton's litter found at Woodbine Beach. According to a city of Toronto litter audit, Tim Horton's accounted for 20 per cent of all branded litter.(Paul Smith/CBC)

Last month, city staff noted an increase in the amount of litter in public spaces over the past year, adding it can have harmful effects on the environment and wildlife.

The city conducted a litter audit last September, finding that the most commonly found items were paper towels/napkins, chewing gum, cigarette butts, and disposable cups.

The most commonly littered branded items came from Tim Horton's, accounting for more than 20 per cent of branded items. McDonald's packaging is second on that list, accounting for 5.8 per cent.

No littering fines issued this year

The city's community-based spring cleanup program was cancelled due to the pandemic with a plan to reschedule it in September.

Littering is illegal and scofflaws face a $500 fine. However, the city has not issued a single ticket for littering in 2021.

"Speaking to residents when littering is observed and asking them to pick up their items and dispose of them in the proper bin continues to be the most effective enforcement approach," a city spokesperson wrote in a statement.

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