By removing trash cans, local officials aren’t stuck with vermin and cleaning up the mess of others.

WATERVILLE — Steve Buzzell and Sam Green won’t soon forget the morning they went to the North Street Playground to find the aftermath of a birthday party gone wild.

Trash was scattered everywhere. The picnic tables were smeared with cake and frosting. They said it looked as though a plane had crashed there.

“We had to come and pressure-wash the whole deck,” Green said. “Sugar attracts bees, and they were everywhere.”

Buzzell, grounds mechanic for the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, and Green, park foreman, said they spent a lot of time cleaning up the mess, which took up time from other necessary work, such as mowing and trimming.

In fact, cleaning up litter, emptying overflowing trash cans and disposing of dog feces at city parks, playgrounds, fields and other recreation areas chewed up 12 to 16 man-hours a week for the recreation crew until the city adopted a policy requiring patrons to carry out what they carry into those areas. The trash and garbage at the sites drew birds, skunks, raccoons and flies, among other pests.

“Things were a disaster. That’s what prompted me to do research,” Parks and Recreation Director Matt Skehan said. “It’s a national trend. National and state parks have policies of carry in, carry out. Leave no trash, basically.”

Last summer, trash cans were removed from the city’s athletic fields, Quarry Road Recreation Area, Head of Falls, and parks and playgrounds – all except North Street Playground, where they were removed this year.

Signs went up recently at the playground, asking patrons to carry out anything they carry into the site.

“I’ve always liked that mentality. People need to be responsible for their own stuff,” Skehan said Wednesday at North Street Playground. “The issue is important to me and the department. We’re proud of the facilities we have in Waterville. We treat these areas like they’re our own backyard.”

Skehan said he was nervous about removing trash cans from the North Street site because of the volume of people who use it – hundreds if not thousands of people every week during the summer. They picnic, play with their children and host birthday parties.

“It’s loaded,” he said. “But so far, the policy has been very well received. I feel that most people are accepting of it. They’re still getting used to it, but at least they’re accepting of it.”

Skehan said a 3-by-4-foot sign will be put up at the playground listing the reasons why the new policy was implemented.

Taking responsibility for waste encourages awareness of natural resources; can prompt environmentally friendly behavior such as recycling; encourages visitors to help keep parks clean; saves money; increases safety by helping prevent bees, wasps and other pests; and helps prevent unpleasant odors, according to Skehan.

It also removes trash and improves the health of wildlife by reducing their dependency on trash as a food source, he said.

Another issue that concerns Skehan, Buzzell and Green is dog owners who don’t pick up after their dogs, even though the city supplies plastic bags at parks for that purpose. Some people put the feces in the bags but leave the bags on city property, they said.

Feces left in parks and fields gets into mowing equipment, which then must be cleaned, and city workers often step in it, they said.

They asked that people who spend time at the parks help spread the word about keeping them clean. If they see someone leaving feces or trash, they should say something, Skehan said.

“We need help,” he said. “The city can’t do everything. We definitely need support from the community to keep our parks and areas clean and safe.”

Besides the city’s policies, state law prohibits littering, he noted.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247, or at:

[email protected]