“Litter twins” Heather Moyer and Ashley Espostio participate in the Mayor’s 2020 Spring Clean up event in Violetville. Courtesy Ashley Esposito
“Litter twins” Heather Moyer and Ashley Espostio participate in the Mayor’s 2020 Spring Clean up event in Violetville. Courtesy Ashley Esposito

Baltimore residents and community organizations are set to clean the streets across the city this weekend, as part of Mayor Brandon Scott’s spring clean-up day.

The event is an annual Baltimore tradition, but with street sweeping services and bulk trash pickup suspended amid the COVID-19 pandemic, residents say the need this year is greater.

“The trash situation hasn’t stopped,” said Ashley Esposito, a resident in the city’s Violeteville neighborhood in southwest Baltimore. “It’s really up to me and my neighbors to clean up these streets.”

While Scott’s office is coordinating the citywide event, it will be decentralized this year, with community groups and neighborhood associations stepping up to take on hyperlocal efforts.

The mayor is set to join a number of organized local cleanups across the city, beginning in Park Heights, the neighborhood in which he grew up, and wrapping up at an event in Library Square.

“Typically, the mayor convenes a very large cleanup,” said Stefanie Mavronis, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office. “The big modification this year is taking it from being one large thing where many people are coming together to spreading it across the city in smaller groups.”

Last spring at the onset of the pandemic, the large event was scrapped and replaced by smaller cleanups, and then-Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young implored the city to “Clean where you live.”  The concept is the same this year.

“Given where we’re at in the pandemic and… that we’ve got to follow the public health expertise. We felt it was most appropriate to engage our communities in this way (again),” Mavronis said.

Baltimore Department of Public Works is coordinating event registration and distributing garbage bags for residents and community groups taking part in the cleanup day.

Those looking to register cleanup events and receive trash bags can call 311 or visit the 311 web site page to submit a form.

There are more than 200 registrations for the cleanup, spanning all 14 council districts, according to officials.

Esposito is helping to lead efforts in Violetville. She’s working with the Village of Violetville, a neighborhood wellness association, coordinating neighborhood efforts.

The group decided to forgo a large gathering and are instead encouraging neighbors to clean where they live.

“We’re not hyping this as much as we normally would,” said Esposito, who serves on the Village of Violetville board.

The group had previously made the annual cleaning event a competition, offering an award for the ‘best picker.’

“We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure it’s as asynchronous as possible,” she said.

Instead the group is asking neighbors to alert board members to neighborhood cleaning activities, and it plans to dispatch socially distant volunteers to blocks unclaimed by residents.

Esposito says she expects residents to clean solo or in small groups, wear a mask and practice social distancing.

“Normally at cleanups we would have like food or coffee, and we’re not having any of that at this one.”

The mayor’s 2021 city-wide Clean Up event will be decentralized because of the pandemic.
The mayor’s 2021 city-wide Clean Up event will be decentralized because of the pandemic.

In Park Heights, neighbors are holding a gathering.

Park Heights Renaissance Executive Director Yolanda Jiggetts said her community organization plans to hold a welcome event to kick off spring cleaning with residents and send volunteers off to areas across the neighborhood.

“We’ve been very creative despite the impacts of COVID-19,” she said. “We are still able to put forth this effort, and we’re very energized.”

Jiggets said Park Heights Renaissance’s clean and green team has been coordinating neighborhood cleanup efforts throughout the pandemic.

“The fortunate and unfortunate part is we’ve become pretty good at this,” she said. “Our organization did not stop doing this during the pandemic. We’re pretty good experts in ensuring that we have the proper PPE available to residents that come out, masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. We will be enforcing social distancing even though we are outdoors.”

Scott plans to join Jiggetts at the event in Park Heights, according to Mavronis.

In Hampden, residents can meet the community council volunteers at Roosevelt Park in the neighborhood to pick up trash bags and gloves and the council volunteers will direct socially distant small groups to different areas in the park.

“It’s a drop-in cleanup any time from 10 until 12, as opposed to a single time where we all gather,” said Kevin McCloskey, who serves on the Hampden Community Council board and is helping lead efforts in Hampden “The whole design is with COVID in mind.”

McCloskey said nearby schools and the nearby recreation center have reopened, and more residents are enjoying the park.

“Things are open again,” he said. “The park is getting activated. It’s in general need of a cleaning.”

City officials also noted that all trash and debris must be bagged. Residents can either place the bagged trash in their bins for weekly scheduled trash collections, or they can deliver bags to drop-off centers across the city.

In previous years, DPW organized dumpster sites for debris drop-off and trucks across the city helped groups dispose of trash collected. Amid the pandemic, DPW won’t be able to provide those resources to communities.

Park Heights Renaissance is working with a local waste management company, to provide four dumpsters for the event.

Although events this year will look different across the city, residents are encouraged by the city’s lead and excited to pitch in.

“It’s our responsibility to have a clean and welcoming space for residents and visitors,” McCloskey said.

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