10 Great Ways Your Family Can Help Clean Local Parks

You love your park, and the grounds and play area are starting to show it! Spruce up your favorite space.
You love your park, and the grounds and play area are starting to show it! Spruce up your favorite space.
Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Are you looking for a volunteer project that's fun for the whole family? Your local park is a great place to start! You might be planning to spend a lot of time there over summer break, during fall's pee-wee football season or even after a winter storm leaves blankets of snow in the wide, open expanses. If your park isn't up to par, this is your opportunity to make it a more desirable and fun place for your whole family to enjoy.

You can do as much or as little as you like, but keep in mind that more involved projects (such as painting colorful murals or planting trees -- both on our list) might require special permission. Decide what projects appeal to your skill set, and then check with your local park's board to get approval. Wondering what exactly you can do to make your park cleaner and more appealing? We've got 10 great ideas that your whole family will enjoy.

Ready to get to work? Let's start with landscaping.

10
Plant Trees

Planting trees in your park can add a lot of value to the area. Not only will trees provide much-desired shade, they'll improve the air quality of your local park, too.

Start by researching the types of trees you should plant. Make your choices according to the climate of your city so the trees will have the best chance of survival. When it's time to plant them, do it in areas that could use an aesthetic boost! Ideal spots are by water features (lakes and ponds) or around the playground and park benches. Or, pick a place where families like to picnic, and plant trees there to provide some privacy and shelter from the sun.

9
Paint the Playground
A fresh coat of paint can transform playground equipment.
A fresh coat of paint can transform playground equipment.
©iStockphoto/Thinkstock

A fresh coat of paint on the playground is sure to make your park look brand-new!

As you prepare for this project, you may want to take a sample of the old paint to your local health department to make sure that it's not lead-based. If it does contain lead, you'll need to strip the playground entirely before

repainting it.

Check with your local hardware store to get advice on types of paint that will work well with the playground equipment and the climate. Don't have a playground at your park? Building one is another possibility!

8
Clean Up Trash

Parks are high-traffic areas in most cities. This means that trash is bound to show up in and around your park and playground.

When discussing ways your family can help clean your local park, don't overlook a literal cleanup! Picking up trash will make a huge difference in the appearance and vibe of your park. A clean area will encourage others to keep the park pristine. When picking up trash and debris, make sure to wear gloves to protect yourself, and put trash in appropriate receptacles or lawn bags. You can also contact your local trash company to schedule a pickup when you're finished.

7
Make Minor Repairs
Swings looking lackluster? Fix 'em.
Swings looking lackluster? Fix 'em.
©iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Your park may have some minor damages that can be repaired pretty easily. Maybe the water fountain is broken, the street lamps' lightbulbs have burned out or the swings on the playground need new seats.

Most of the supplies that you need for these types of repairs can be found inexpensively at your local hardware store. However, some repairs may require you to hire a professional. Take notes on what needs to be fixed, and determine if these are simple jobs that you can do with your family. We guarantee there are fix-it opportunities lurking all over your park -- you just have to look for them!

6
Trim Bushes and Landscaping

If your park already has a good landscape design, it might just need some tending. Trimming and shaping shrubs and bushes will do wonders!

Start by trimming overgrown bushes and cutting the grass -- these are instant fixes that will improve the park's appearance. If your space is lacking any real landscaping, it's time to play in the dirt! This is a project that requires clearance from the authorities, but you can make a real difference by planting a variety of green and colorful things that will add visual appeal to the park. Start small by planting flowers along a walkway or adding new mulch to the playground area. Dreaming big? Add rows of shrubbery to distinguish play and picnic areas.

5
Plant a Community Garden
Grow veggies with your community and share the bounty (and responsibility).
Grow veggies with your community and share the bounty (and responsibility).
Hemera/Thinkstock

Of course, you can exercise your green thumb in other ways, too. Starting a community garden in your park will bring bright and cheery fun for everyone to enjoy! Even better, this will be an ongoing project that will keep the community invested in the park for years to come.

Before you start, survey the area to determine where you want to plant your garden. Think about what you want to grow: flowers or herbs and veggies? Consider planting flowers around trees and walkways, or create a special garden space that's enclosed by shrubs or a fence. Add a bench so people can sit and admire the flowers, and make the entrance special by coaxing flower vines over an arched trellis.

The key to a successful community garden is choosing plants that work for your climate and soil type. Pick a variety for dimension, color and interesting textures. Set up a community calendar to ensure that the space gets regularly watered, weeded and pruned.

4
Paint a Mural

Sure, flowers are colorful, but if you want to make a real splash, paint a mural. Murals are making a comeback in public spaces and can be an exciting addition to the look and feel of your park. You can take a creative license with this project, but you don't want the mural to look like graffiti. So, start with a theme and a careful plan for your project.

Once you've got a plan, decide on your canvas. Whether it's a wooden fence, cement wall or even a brick walkway, clean the area first. This will ensure that the paint will stick well. It also doesn't hurt to prime the area with a base coat. Acrylic paint is one of the most durable and long-lasting types for this kind of project -- and you'll want your hard work to withstand the elements!

Next, you'll outline your mural. You can be as detailed as you like, but at least sketch where certain elements of the design will go. Then, start painting.

3
Build Park Benches
What kid doesn't love a project? Challenge your family to build a park bench.
What kid doesn't love a project? Challenge your family to build a park bench.
©iStockphoto/Thinkstock

No park is complete without, well, places to park it. If your local park already has some benches, consider giving them a fresh coat of paint to spruce them up a bit. And if you can secure permission to do so, paint on some bold colors or even stencil funky designs.

If your park is lacking in the seating department, channel your inner handyman. Research step-by-step instructions on how to build a great bench, or even attend woodworking workshops with your family to perfect the skills you'll need for the project. When the project is finished, tack on an engraved brass plate with your family's name and the date you created the bench; your kids will be proud of their hard work!

Strategically place the new benches in areas where people will want to sit down and take in the view. This may be by a pond or lake, a beautiful garden or under a shady tree.

2
Raise Money for Park Projects

Maybe your local park isn't much more than grass and trees. If your community's play space could benefit from features like a playground or a basketball court, organize a fundraiser in your neighborhood to get money for these projects. Be clear about what you want to do and how much money you'll need to do it -- people are more likely to give to a cause when they know exactly what they're funding.

Here are a few ideas to get you started: Throw a block party to generate excitement for the project, put an ad in your local newspaper or magazine, post flyers around your neighborhood, or create a blog where you can track your progress and post pictures of your work (make sure to include before and after shots)! You just might be surprised to discover who's interested in partnering with you.

1
Paint the Concrete With Playground Games
This game goes on long after storms wash away chalk.
This game goes on long after storms wash away chalk.
Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock

Concrete is everywhere, and painting it with playground games is an easy and inexpensive way to make your park more fun and appealing! Paint a few games of hopscotch on the sidewalk or even paint a chess or checkers board on a large cement area.

Get your community involved by finding out what games the kids would like to see at their new park. If you're going to spend the time and energy painting any games, you want to be sure they'll be a hit with the neighborhood kids. Use street paint so that your designs will weather wind, rain and sunshine, and make sure that everything is completely dry before play time!

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Sources

  • Georgia Department of Community Health. "Georgia Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program." (April 8, 2011). http://health.state.ga.us/programs/lead/faq.asp
  • Rex Art. "Mural Paintings." (April 8, 2011). http://www.rexart.com/appmuralprep.html
  • Useful Community Development.org. "Cleaning Up Your Neighborhood Park Lifts Spirits." (April 8, 2011). http://www.useful-community-development.org/cleaning-up-your-neighborhood-park.html
  • Useful Community Development.org. "Park Clean-up Benefits Community." (April 8, 2011). http://www.useful-community-development.org/park-clean-up.html