Panda litter cleans this park – Essex News Daily

Image courtesy of Lara Tomlin
Volunteers who call themselves Trash Pandas have been cleaning up the grounds of Memorial Park in Maplewood since the beginning of the year.

MAPLEWOOD, NJ – It’s not unusual to see Trash Pandas outside during the day.

Unlike the nocturnal raccoons from which they get their name, this group works during the day, cleaning rather than making a mess.

They are part of the Maplewood Memorial Park Conservancy and have begun a monthly cleanup of the park located in the center of town, just outside the village and down the hill from the train station.
Their last cleanup on Saturday, April 29, was the third since the group was established and organized.

“We do this on the fourth Saturday of every month,” said Lara Tomlin, a member of the conservation board. “People were coming in with complaints about the amount of trash in the park, so we decided to make it a group activity to inspire more footfall. It’s only an hour, so it’s a small-scale activity, and sometimes it gets competitive, which makes it more fun.”

Founded as a nonprofit organization in 2017, the Conservancy today has more than 40 members and an eight-person board of directors. A partnership agreement was signed with the town of Maplewood in 2018, with the goal of preserving, improving, and maintaining the park.
Usually, five or six people come in at a time and offer to help. “I think if you see a problem, you should try to be part of the solution,” Tomlin said.

The Conservancy also holds events in the park for residents and those who pass through town to participate in.
“Last weekend we had a birding walk around the park for the spring migration,” said Tomlin. “We do walks in both spring and fall; an experienced bird-watcher volunteers their time to lead the walk. We saw 34 different species of birds last week; it’s a good way to encourage people walking through the park to bring binoculars and learn about their environment.”

Tomlin discussed her purpose in organizing these clean-up efforts and what she hopes to see from residents in the future.

“Our hope is that parents will bring their children along and teach them the value of caring for your environment,” said Tomlin. “The takeaway after an hour-long park cleanup is that people will be less likely to take out their trash and will notice if someone litters their space that they took their time to clean up.”
Additional information about the Conservancy and the park can be found here:

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