Photo: Goodbye, rat magnet.
There were two photos projected on the wide screen at the Board of Selectmen’s Room during the board’s meeting on Monday, March 26.
On the left of the screen was a collection of garbage loaded up on a broken water fountain including what appeared to be a dirty diaper. The right side showed what appeared to be a birthday party but with all the paper plates and napkins, balloons, containers and food left on the benches and tables as if the people were suddenly taken in the Rapture.
The scenes presented to the board of recent conditions at Joey’s Park in the Winn Brook neighborhood was just the spark to light the fuse to launch Selectman Mark Paolillo into orbit.
“That’s disgusting! How do people do this? It’s so disrespectful!” said Paolillo in an extended animated response, sending a message to the community that he and the town have had enough of those who litter and run.
“Those of you at home who did this; it’s outrageous!” said Paolillo.
The evidence of residents and possibly visitors from surrounding communities behaving badly by illegal dumping trash in the parks is prompting the town to reintroduce a program removing all trash barrels in town’s eight parks and playground to be replaced with a program where if you bring something into the parks, you’ll have to take the resulting waste out yourself.
“While there is no silver bullet that will end illegal dumping, this [policy] will be a long-term benefit,” said Jay Marcotte, Belmont Public Works director, as he presented the plan to the board.
While many residents were not in favor of the program known as Carry-In/Carry-Out when it was first introduced a year ago, the proposed policy is now also being used as a weapon to attack another issue facing residents: rats.
The rodent infestation has begun to plague certain parks and neighborhoods as the rats have discovered a ready source of food, coming from compost piles, pet food left outdoors, birdseed dispensers and household trash. And one of the easiest is the waste and food scraps left in and around the many barrels located in each park.
Currently, the town empties barrels Monday, Wednesday and Friday and whenever they are called, said Marcotte. But just by having trash containers creates a problem. “If you build it, they will come. And if you have trash barrels, the trash will come. It’s just the nature of what humans do, even if its overflowing,” said Marcotte.
While some residents contend the problem can be solved with more barrel pickups, Marcotte believes the best long-term approach is a conscious and sustained effort of re-educating the public.
A pilot program at Joey’s Park and Town Field between Beech and Waverley streets beginning in the next few months. The policy of taking away the trash is gaining in popularity locally and around the country. Nearby Walden Pond in Concord, the Boston Harbour Islands, the National Park System and the municipalities of Gloucester, Beverly, Reading, and Needham have joined the trend.
The DPW is working with the Board of Health to bring its expertise in educating the public.
Board of Health member Dr. David Alper said while the board had reservations on a complete ban of receptacles, “Let’s try it. It certainly doesn’t cost us anything to hit the two big parks.”
“It comes back to education. You wouldn’t think you’d have to educate the public to pick up after themselves but you do,” said Alper. He also said the DPW will work with Winn Brook Elementary students to create signs and message to be placed around the parks to reinforce the policy.
“And hopefully the byproduct will be the rats will look elsewhere for food,” said Alper.