Have you ever seen an Adopt-A-Spot sign and wondered how that program works? Is there a park or public space that you love and want to help care for but aren’t sure how? ACMB staff member Heather Eichling has the answers to those questions. She helped us adopt a stretch of South Alamo Street along one side of Hemisfair Park and set up a park cleanup event in Yanaguana Garden, the children’s playground in Hemisfair.
The Adopt-A-Spot program invites a group of volunteers to choose an outdoor, public space that they will help to keep clean. According to the City of San Antonio’s Department of Transportation & Capital Improvements (TCI), more than 50 volunteer groups are active in the program, with hundreds more locations available for adoption.
Remember the River is the City of San Antonio’s campaign to educate the public about the importance of keeping trash and other hazards like household chemicals and animal waste—remember to scoop the poop!—out of our waterways. Dumping trash, chemicals, and pet waste on the ground can impact water quality in nearby rivers and creek channels because rainfall carries all of those materials into storm sewers. High levels of chemicals and bacteria can make our waterways unsafe and unhealthy.
“Programs like Adopt-A-Spot work to help mitigate the volume of floatable trash and debris that make their way down our waterways during rain or flood events,” TCI Storm Water Assistant Director Nefi Garza says. “The more sites that are adopted and the more volunteer cleanups that are conducted, the less trash that is left on the ground to make its way down a drainage ditch.”
Heather researched locations that ACMB could adopt. The location needs to be outdoors, in public, and owned by the City of San Antonio (not private property or TXDOT). Eligible locations include green spaces, drainage channels, street medians, and rights-of-way.
Our contributors have been excited about Yanaguana Garden in Hemisfair since it opened in 2015. Heather learned that the sidewalk along the western edge of the park, a right-of-way along South Alamo Street between the Magik Theatre and East César E. Chávez Boulevard, was available for adoption. ACMB completed the agreement forms. The City installed a custom sign at our adopted spot, and we planned a cleanup event.
“Litter is still a year-round problem and poses a year-round risk for our waterways,” Garza notes. “So our cleanup response to that problem also needs to be year-round, and that’s why our Adopt-A-Spot volunteers are so important. I thank the Alamo City Moms Blog volunteers and all our Adopt-A-Spot groups for making a difference in the water quality and riparian health of our natural environment.”
Moms are big fans of parks. What better (free) way to help your kids burn off energy and enjoy the outdoors? We hope you have used Heather’s guide, A Walk in the Park, to explore some of the amazing parks in our city. The San Antonio Department of Parks and Recreation depends on volunteers for projects like picking up litter, wiping out graffiti, and spreading mulch at playgrounds.
Heather connected with Meredith Tilley, a program manager at Parks and Recreation, about a custom cleanup event for our group. The volunteer program’s purpose is to develop awareness of the need to beautify and preserve city parks by creating a sustainable volunteer base. During the 2017 fiscal year, 3,166 volunteers worked 9,468 service hours on 167 projects. Volunteer tasks include litter pickup, tree planting and mulching, graffiti abatement, gardening, playground mulching, stewardship outreach, and trail watch.
For the ACMB team, which included adults and children, Meredith set up a project in two phases: first, sanitizing play equipment, and later, picking up litter. First, we geared up by putting on safety vests and gloves.
To sanitize play structures in Yanaguana Garden, the adults sprayed cleaner on surfaces while our children followed behind and wiped with T-shirt rags.
In phase two, we formed groups to pick up litter. In each group, several helpers used grabber tools to pick up litter, while one team member carried a big trash bag—helpfully provided by the City.
Our litter pickup teams covered the right-of-way along South Alamo Street—our official Adopt-A-Spot—and nearby areas of Yanaguana Garden.
The team members who volunteered at the cleanup event felt a sense of togetherness and satisfaction of doing something for others. The event was an opportunity to talk to our children about picking up litter and taking good care of our waterways.
We hope that you and your friends can use this information to volunteer in a park or adopt a spot in a place you love. These many small acts of generosity make our city a better place.