Trash Talk Saturday: L.A.’s historic South Park is a little cleaner now

  • Posted on 5 April 2021
  • By Will McWhinney
“There’s too much trash in the parks! Let’s do something about it." That’s what Mathieu Bonin, local Sierra Club activist, said recently. Starting in January, he’s organized three monthly litter collections in 2021 already. The latest was at South Park in South Los Angeles. Six of us grabbed our grabbers on a bright day in March and cleaned up lawns, flower beds, and bushes, or just called in. It was a meeting in the field using phone headsets and a conference call line. Protected by masks, gloves, fresh air, and distance, we worked together without gathering. 
“Trash Talk Saturday” has now become a regular thing. On the first Saturday of the month from 9-11 am there’s a phone call and some litter collection. It’s a disbursed, virtual event. (Because of a slight lag in the audio, it’s actually better to be out of direct earshot, enforcing plenty of distancing.) Callers don’t even have to be picking up trash or be in the same park to participate. They can come and go from the call or the park as they wish, and no one ever gets too close. The call consists of reports on the history and operation of the parks, discussions of interesting litter, and loose chatter. It’s a pleasant and easy activity that helps our world, our neighbors, and ourselves. 
It took two visits to get most of the accumulated litter from the South Los Angeles Wetlands Park backcountry. The Los Angeles Times  Assistant Editor Mary Forgione called the first event a “curated park cleanup”. “Best surprising green space in the city? These South L.A. wetlands”. The park is a former industrial site that’s been transformed into a natve plant wetland which filters some of the Los Angeles River’s flow. It’s a calm oasis in the middle of the city which attracts ducks, herons, and other wildlife. The park is a popular spot for people to stroll or jog around the pond. 
In March we picked up litter at South Park. We cleaned flower beds and lawns while Mathieu informed us that it is one of L.A.’s oldest parks, purchased in the 1880s. It has been an important center of L.A.’s African American community: the site of Easter Parades, jazz concerts, and Civil Rights Movement demonstrations. Its most famous feature is a double row of palm trees which once led to a large fountain fed by a spring. The park fell on hard times after funding cuts in the 1970s. A major overhaul initiated recently is now almost complete. The fountain is gone, but the palm trees are still there, taller than ever. On the day, the park was also occupied by aerobics exercises, soccer games, and COVID vaccinations. 
Central Group Chair Barbara Hensleigh said, “Trash Talk Saturdays is a delightful way of socially connecting with volunteers (via dialing into our conference call number), learning about different parks in our area and making a difference. Hats off to Mathieu and Will, who came up with such a fun event.” 
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