MERIDEN — City resident Peter Polack has been picking up trash along the trails at Hubbard Park as a volunteer since 1998.
At the start of 2019, Polack purchased a luggage scale and weighed his weekly assortments of empty bottles, cups, food wrappers and other trash throughout the year.
“I did it just to give me an idea of, ‘Am I being productive?’” said Polack, who tallied and tracked his trash weights on his personal hiking blog, hubbardpark.blogspot.com.
When he began his cleanups in February, Polack expected to end 2019 with about 200 to 300 pounds because he was only collecting from the trails and not the park itself. On Sunday, Polack finished his last cleanup of the year with 600.5 pounds of garbage, which he collected while hiking a total of 205.4 miles at the park, he wrote on his blog.
The trash was picked up “on trails where you really would think people would be environmentally sensitive, but yet you're finding all this garbage” Pollack said.
“It’s just amazing that the people would be that inconsiderate and just drop things wherever,” said Maryellen Mordarski, chairwoman of the city’s Conservation Commission. “Hubbard Park is our premiere park, it's the jewel of the city.”
Polack decided to conduct his yearlong, rubbish-weighing experiment after hiking and picking up along the park’s trail system for over two decades. The lifelong city resident first took an interest in Hubbard Park when he learned how to mountain bike at the park in 1984.
Beginning in 1998, Polack visited Hubbard Park weekly with garbage bags and gloves to remove trash and debris from the trail system. He cleaned the park for 10 years “in obscurity” until 2008, when he formally adopted Hubbard Park through a citizen-based “adopt-a-park” stewardship program started by the Conservation Commission.
"I did this in obscurity for the past 10 years," Polack was quoted as saying in a 2010 Record-Journal story about his cleanup efforts.
Taking care of Hubbard Park is no small task because, as the 2010 story notes, it is the largest municipally-owned park in the entire country, with over 1,800 acres of forest, trails, mountains and wetlands.
Today, Polack, who is 59 and has a full-time job as a radio technician, continues his regular visits despite the fact that the city’s adopt-a-park program has been inactive or several years.
“It has been a while (since the program was active), but we do appreciate everything Peter Polack has done,” Mordarski said.
Mordarski said she would be open to reviving the adopt-a-park program.
“It’s something that I will put on the agenda for the February meeting to see how far we go with it,” she said.
When the city first started the program 12 years ago, only about a handful of the city’s 24 municipal parks were adopted, and Mordarski doesn’t know how many residents would volunteer today.
“I’m not sure how successful it would be, but it would be something to get info out there to let people know that the parks should be left clean,” she said.