As the city’s Department of Public Works has gradually downsized over the years, its employees struggle increasingly to complete their tasks and pick up after the trash, lawn debris and litter that some people drop behind in the city’s natural spaces.
Now, with calls coming in about illegal dumping and other trash-related issues, a local volunteer group stepped in to aid the city.
When the 16 remaining full-time DPW employees spend their time collecting trash left haphazardly along Stacy Boulevard, dropped illegally in Dogtown or left littered across Pole’s Hill, they lose time for other projects, says Public Works Director Mike Hale.
“This detracts from other things we could be doing,” Hale said. “It’s just unfortunate, with a short staff, a lot of things that are programmed for routine work have to be moved on down the line.”
So, as employees have found their time filled with prioritized tasks and cleaning up litter, vines and leaves have woven their way across footpaths and trees have cracked and crashed, blocking off some of Gloucester’s hiking trails. And two hikers who recently called the Times told of massive piles of trash left near a Dogtown firepit by apparent parties.
“When public works gets cut, the effects aren’t noticed as quickly,” Hale said. “They get noticed down the road.”
Luckily for Gloucester’s hiking and trail enthusiasts, a group of locals volunteering under the title of Cape Ann Trail Stewards have begun blazing trails through bramble and collaborating with the city and other Cape Ann communities to carve proper trails in some of the most demanding locations.
The group, which formed this past winter, started by cleaning up Goose Cove a few weeks back, then continued onto Pole’s Hill last weekend. They spent over half a day cutting back branches, removing fallen trees, and picking up litter from the spot where city residents fought to preserve the nature, opposing a housing development years ago.