NORFOLK, Va. - Lafayette Park appeared clean and litter-free Friday afternoon, but according to John Ruggiero, it could be strewn with litter quickly after.
“No later than a day or two after, it could be covered with litter again,” Ruggiero said.
John Ruggiero is the division head of Norfolk's Landscape Services. His office is in charge of maintaining the city’s parks and landscapes.
Most of their time, he said, is spent picking up people's litter, which is what they did Friday morning. Some of the more vulnerable, he said, were the children that visit the playground.
“There’s no telling what they could’ve found on the playground,” Ruggiero said.
“We try our best to manage our parts the best we can and we do a very good job at it,” Ruggiero continued. “But we can do an even better job if we didn’t spend a quarter of our time picking up litter."
Just like other city departments, his department has also seen cutbacks because of the pandemic.
“With parks being open and the pandemic among us, the attendance has been overwhelming," Ruggiero said.
At Lafayette Park, for example, there are roughly 60 trash cans – out of about 700 city-wide in the city’s parks. But Ruggiero said that people's trash doesn’t always end up in the trash cans.
“Every entrance and exit, you’re going to pass a can,” Ruggiero said. “Some people will place it next to the can, but that won’t do any good."
When his staff approaches someone littering, Ruggerio said the person littering often expects his staff to clean it up.
Ruggiero added park rangers patrol the parks. They will give offenders a verbal warning at first, according to Ruggiero, but repeated offenses can result in citations.
Overall, Ruggiero said he wants people to be mindful.
“Take ownership in your city, take ownership in your parks, take ownership in your beaches and clean up your trash," Ruggiero said.