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Public Works program allows for volunteers to adopt a park

Evie Perkins, 89, picks up garbage along a path in Levee Park. Zach Dwyer / RiverTown Multimedia

The Adopt-a-Park program, a joint effort between Red Wing's Public Works office and the United Way, is aiming at increasing support for the city's parks system.

The project began in May 2015 as part of the larger Get Connected online system. Get Connected is an effort by the United Way to allow for more community volunteers to match their interests and multiple needs to projects in Red Wing.

Tammie Dougherty, office manager for the Public Works Department, thinks the technology will be able to simplify the volunteer process.

"Anyone that wants to volunteer in the city can go to one site. If you have a need, we put that out there. Sarah (Lindner, volunteer manager) has done a really nice job of putting opportunities on there and keeping it as updated as possible," Dougherty said.

One of the focal points of Get Connected is the ongoing Adopt-a-Park program. The volunteer effort is striving to have citizens make a more personal connection with their local parks and fields.

"Some of them find the opportunities they want, while others want to be more connected to people. A lot of public works is on your own, where you're not helping an individual but you're helping a public place," Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Patrick Ramaker said.

However, the system is set up to allow for both needs to be supplied. Dougherty said the Get Connected page is also advantageous for people to looking for groups or ongoing projects.

Ramaker gave one example of a group supporting youth outreach originally wanting to get to know people in the community, but eventually settling on a bigger aspect of the "do" portion of public works by wanting to fix things. They've already taken to ballfield maintenance and can be counted on to take care of things going forward.

"We like the concept of the Adopt-a-Park to take ownership. We help you and guide you whenever you need, but once you start doing it more and more, you don't need us. And once you do it enough you have your own ideas," Ramaker said.

This partnership allows for the community to take the steps to make the parks more aesthetically pleasing beyond the work the Public Works Department puts in. There's not a feasible way for the department to maintain every park in the city according to Ramaker, but allowing feedback from people who are at the parks everyday will be beneficial for everyone.

The program will supply trash bags, tools and whatever is agreed upon between a group or individual looking to improve a park.

Dougherty is also thankful for the large amount of groups beyond the program who have volunteered their time, including Master Gardeners, the Horticulture Society and Friends of the Bluff. Many other groups and individuals have stepped up as well to volunteer their time and efforts.

One case that has especially stood out is the work of 89-year-old Evie Perkins. Perkins started caring for the city's trails five or six years ago when she would climb Barn Bluff with her grandchildren and pick up trash. She now may have to use a walker to get around, but that hasn't stopped her enthusiasm for keeping it clean for others.

"The trails are Red Wing's gift to me, so I'm giving back to it. That's also what I wanted to teach my grandchildren," Perkins said.

Perkins may not be able to climb Barn Bluff anymore, but she still frequently walks around Colvill Park and Levee Park in addition to some of the bike trails. As she walks, she makes sure to keep an eye out and clean up the trash of others. But she very clearly states how it isn't work for her.

"After I've picked up, it makes it more pleasant. I take a plastic bag and fasten to my walker and use a grabber. I hope everybody benefits from trying to keep it clean," Perkins said.

Perkins sees the cleanup as just a side product of her walking, but knew that she wanted to help volunteer. This is just one shining example of the Adopt-a-Park program being effective, in addition the dozens of other groups and individuals who make a difference in the community.

"I'd encourage others to think about volunteering. Not just picking up scraps on trails, but to do anything, no matter what your interests are or your physical ability. Give back to the community because they've done so much for you. Be grateful," Perkins said.

This collaboration between Public Works and citizens will give a variety of opportunities for the city to take accountability for it's public outdoor spaces. The only step left is to get involved.

You can visit the Get Connected website at: " target="_blank">getconnected.uw-gwp.org/agency/detail/?agency_id=41563.

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