Like most parks and open spaces, Alexandra Park was inundated with litter as lockdown restrictions were lifted in May. In June, 30 tonnes of litter were left in the park, compared with around 11 tonnes in June 2019. It was staggering to see the masses of litter left behind by groups of people who had obviously just got up and walked away leaving all the mess from their eating, drinking and smoking spread across the grass.
With lockdown, Alexandra Palace lost almost 100% of its income, and had to look for savings wherever possible. That included reducing the John O’Conner grounds maintenance team’s hours. With fewer hours and the huge volume of litter, the John O’Conner team were spending all day clearing litter.
Appalled by the sight of all the litter in the park, a number of local residents started doing some litter clearance themselves. Others asked how they could help. A group formed in Redston Road to tackle the piles of litter left every night in Redston Field and another group in Northview/Southview mobilised to assist in nearby areas. The Friends of Alexandra Park organised volunteers to cover the remaining areas of the park, and distributed litter pickers and bags provided by Mark Evison, the Park Manager. More and more people saw volunteers working, asked how they could help and were directed through the Friends’ website to one of the groups. Now there are around 100 volunteers covering every day of the week and all the areas of the park.
The volunteers pick litter across the whole park and bag it for the John O’Conner team to collect as they empty the bins. The John O’Conner guys really appreciate the work done by the volunteers, because it reduces the time they have to spend on what is a pretty unrewarding part of their job, and allows them to get on with their other tasks. It shows them, and the park and palace management, that local residents care enough about the park to share in the job of keeping it looking good.