MERIDEN — Mayor Kevin Scarpati believes that the bi-annual Mayor’s Cleanup Day is having a permanent, positive influence on the beautification of the city.
“There are still areas I drive by that we cleared up two or three years ago that are still doing well. It’s made an impact,” he said.
Dozens of volunteers assembled on the Meriden Green Saturday morning to fan out around the city and remove litter and bulky waste from targeted areas. They focused their efforts on the Green, East Main Street, Paddock Avenue, the bleachers and concession areas at Falcon Field, West Main and South Vine street, State Street Ext. near the Center and Camp Street loop, Bunker Street, the Cook Avenue and West Main Street area, and the vicinity off Crown and Olive streets.
Scarpati’s office, along with the Council of Neighborhoods, the Parks and Recreation department and the police, identify areas of the city that require sprucing using constituent feedback and their own observations.
Some areas, like Capital Avenue and Bacon Street, are always on the city’s radar.
“Those are areas of the city where we always have bulky waste litter,” he said. “They are somewhat isolated in nature. There is a not a hearty presence in traffic or residential homes.”
Edwin Hernandez, a 28-year employee of the Parks and Recreation Department, was leading a group of student volunteers at 141 Olive St., an abandoned home. They filled the back of a truck with garbage, debris, rotting mattresses, and other detritus. When a home becomes abandoned it become a dumping ground, he said.
“There is everything here but the kitchen sink,” Hernandez said. “Anything that we can get off the street or the sidewalk helps.”
Like Scarpati, Hernandez has seen the benefit of the event.
“It’s getting better. There are a lot more volunteers helping out, trying to beautify the city,” he said.
Mayor’s Clean Up Day also gives city high school students an opportunity to earn the 20 hours of community service they require for graduation.
“They like to see what they can bring to the city,” said Justin Mitchell, the freshman basketball coach at Platt High School.
A group of students working on the Green represented Platt’s Connecticut Climate Action club, an organization devoted to improving the natural environment. These concerned teens see the gravity of climate change and want to be part of the solution.
“I already have my hours, but I want to help out,” said Nayely Galvez-Salazar, a senior.
Daniel Hand, a junior, gave up a football game on Friday to attend the Global Climate Strike in New York City.
“I got a lot of slack for going, but I feel like the planet is more important than some game. It was an amazing experience, being around thousands of people with the same mindset as you,” he said.
Awareness among students about the gravity of the situation is spreading and they are looking for ways to have an impact. Mya Flis, a junior, said the group will re-plant native species in the trails around their school.
On Saturday, however, making sure the Meriden Green is clean will have to be a proxy for tackling bigger issues. “We love the Earth and we want to see it be safe,” said Refat Hossain, a senior.