wpid-wp-1407615443367.jpegPeople say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Truth is, you knew what you had, you just never thought you’d lose it.

So much is taken for granted nowadays that our ability to see what is acceptable and unacceptable is noticeably starting to shift. Maybe it’s an age thing and only when we reach a point in our lives when reflection takes over from the urgency to achieve that we start to become more aware of community and the values that shape and preserve our society. We appear to becoming increasingly self-obsessed where personal space has to be filled with the latest brands and gadgets and our community space has become the responsibility of ‘others’.

An example of this can be seen in our local park which is loved and appreciated by many people in Upminster. The park, a precious parcel of green space in the middle of suburbia at the end of the eastern section of the district line, is watched over by a small group of local residents called Friends of Upminster Park. The park boasts superb facilities and surroundings: tennis courts; an outdoor basket ball court, an outdoor gym; a cricket and hockey club; a summer wildflower meadow; a children’s play area; a kiosk; table tennis tables; seating and a small team of Council General Maintenance (GM) staff who maintain the park to a very high standard. Recently new bins were installed around the park increasing the number to 32. All this effort to provide the community with an outstanding local resource. Effort which has helped to re-secure the much coveted Green Flag award for the park in 2014.

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Sadly, though our park is not valued in this way by everybody in the community. Long summer evenings, weekends and end of term celebrations all take their toll. Sunday mornings are particularly bad leaving you with the impression that a runaway dust cart has shed it’s load whilst careering out of control from one end of the park to the other. Lack of available funding means GM staff are not employed to be on site during weekends to clear up and pick up litter. In fact our GM staff are employed during the week to maintain the planted areas and are not employed solely to clear up dropped litter.

Groups of children and young people gather in the park to meet friends and hang out but often decide, or choose, to forget to put their rubbish in one of the 32 bins. A mild form of safe rebellion which goes unpunished, a way to prove your rebel credentials to your peers, or worse still, total unawareness that dropping litter is socially unacceptable.

The front of the park is worse affected being close to the main road and Upminster’s varied food and drink outlets. Plastic drink bottles, food cartons, beer cans, glass bottles and worryingly spent small silver nitrous oxide cream charger canisters are starting to appearing in numbers, all scattered here, there and everywhere after a busy weekend in the park.

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If GM staff didn’t pick up the litter then we’d fast be up to our necks in rubbish at which time our precious personal space would fall victim to the fate of our community space. I’m sure if this happened we’d hear complaints from the people who drop litter as well. Everybody has a different level of tolerance but I’m betting this is striking a chord amongst many of you who might be reading this. I’m not outraged that so called ‘others’ aren’t taking care of our community space; I’m outraged that we’re not taking care; the retailers and the residents of Upminster.

Where’s the tipping point (no pun intended) when dropped litter becomes a real community issue and we the residents of Upminster take action? I’m sure we all care, don’t we? It’s easy to assume that we’ll never lose the park to a developer but let’s not test that boundary by appearing indifferent. We can’t expect or assume that Friends of Upminster Park will solve the problem on their own. They need support and that means support from local businesses, schools and the residents of Upminster.

This article was used with permission from Mark Gray’s Blog. For more articles take a look at his blog http://markgray64.wordpress.com/