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Published: 6/20/2004

Volunteers' citywide sweep removes 20 tons of garbage

BY LINDSEY MERGENER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
From left, Robert Stout, Block Watch captain, and Dean Wolfe and Trevon Gaston, both 13, comb Bronson Park in their efforts to straighten up the city park. From left, Robert Stout, Block Watch captain, and Dean Wolfe and Trevon Gaston, both 13, comb Bronson Park in their efforts to straighten up the city park.
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

Toledoans driving through the intersection of Monroe Street and Auburn Avenue Friday may have noticed knee-high weeds covering one corner and trash strewn across a nearby alley.

But by noon yesterday, anyone crossing the intersection would find the corner looking quite different. The grass was neatly manicured, the weeds gone, the garbage bagged, and freshly planted pink roses surrounded a sign welcoming people to the neighborhood.

This effort was not an isolated one. From 8 a.m. to noon, an estimated 400 people worked to spruce up 13 sites throughout the city that were targeted for the clean-up effort organized by the mayor's office.

About 20 tons of trash were collected, said Mary Chris Skeldon, the mayor's public information officer.

She said the cleanup concentrated on gateways and major thoroughfares to prepare for visitors attending the Art Tatum Jazz Heritage Festival this weekend in International Park.

"This activity today is about making the area more attractive for the neighbors here," said Bob Krompak, director of the Ottawa Community Development Corp., as he took a break from gardening at the corner.

The city's ZIP Code sector leaders, as well as some Block Watch groups, residents, city employees, and community development groups volunteered to pick up litter, get rid of yard waste, and beautify their designated areas.

Barb Herring, city law director, said she thinks seeing a clean, pretty corner such as the one she helped improve is "uplifting."

"We're just trying to get things going in the neighborhood," Ms. Herring said. "All the departments cooperate with each other to get this stuff done."

Brad Thielen, 13, helped clean up and garden with other volunteers including his dad, Rick Thielen, Toledo's manager of code enforcement.

"It's fun," Brad said. "You can come out and get to know people you didn't know before."

Brad, who has volunteered for clean-up days before, said he enjoys making Toledo a better living environment. And passing by a place he helped clean makes him proud, he said.

Mayor Jack Ford participated too. He said on the city's clean-up days he typically spends about 45 minutes in the early morning driving to clean-up sites and calling in the problems he finds. Then he makes sure they get fixed, he said.

Pleased by the "gorgeous" weather and volunteers' efforts, Mr. Ford, who has made cleaner neighborhoods a focus of his administration, said he was stunned by some of the flowers and glad to see the streets had been swept clean.

"To me, everything is looking great in Toledo today," he said.

John Loftus, special assistant to the mayor, said the area he helped to clean at the corner of North Detroit Avenue and Dorr Street looked better after he and other volunteers mowed it and picked up garbage there.

There wasn't enough time yesterday morning to eliminate every eyesore.

Mr. Loftus pointed to two houses set for demolition and said the burden of dealing with such sites sometimes falls to the city.

"Some of this stuff isn't ours, but it's still our problem," he said. "You can clean it up, but what do you do with it?"

The city usually hosts three clean-up days each year. The next one, Mr. Thielen said, tentatively is scheduled for Sept. 25.

Contact Lindsey Mergener at: lmergener@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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