Lightfoot to Chicagoans: Pick that up

Chicago’s coming-out party left its mark on beaches and in parks. “I’m an old Girl Scout,” the mayor said. “I believe when you’re out there, you leave the environment better than when you found it. And that means picking up trash.”

SHARE Lightfoot to Chicagoans: Pick that up
Montrose Beach on Thursday, June 10, 2021.

A crowded Montrose Beach last Thursday. Crowds kept packing Chicago’s beaches and parks through the weekend, celebrating the full reopening of the city — but what some of those people left behind has Mayor Lori Lightfoot more than a little miffed.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Chicagoans took full advantage of the glorious weather during reopening weekend by flocking to lakefront beaches and holding picnics and barbecues in neighborhood parks.

By Sunday evening, the parks and beaches had plenty to show for it. They were loaded with litter.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot isn’t happy about those ugly remnants from Chicago’s coming-out party.

“People should take more care. Don’t litter. Don’t destroy our beautiful lakefront by leaving trash everywhere. Be thoughtful about the person who’s gonna come behind you,” the mayor said Tuesday.

“Don’t abandon … individual responsibility. If you’re out there in a park enjoying yourself, that’s terrific. But clean up after yourself. I’m an old Girl Scout. I believe when you’re out there, you leave the environment better than when you found it. And that means picking up trash.”

Chicago Park District Supt. Mike Kelly preceded the mayor to the podium and took a more diplomatic approach to the perennial litter problem.

He noted the Park District has more summer jobs than it has applicants.

“We’re still hiring. We’ve been hiring. We need more and more junior laborers. So, if there’s people out there looking for something for their young ones to do — their teens, their young adults — we have plenty of jobs,” Kelly said.

Although the parks and beaches were packed during reopening weekend with stir-crazy Chicagoan enjoying their newfound freedom, litter in the parks and on the beaches is “not a new issue,” Kelly said.

“We’ve tried everything from, ‘Hit the can’ to every other campaign out there. The fact of the matter is, you’ve constantly got to adjust your garbage cans. You’ve got to adjust your staff accordingly,” he added.

“If you have a busy weekend, I don’t care if it’s on the lakefront [or] in the neighborhoods. You’re gonna see a ton of trash. The vast majority of folks — they hit the can. They can always do better. But you wrestle with it. It’s a good problem to have. People are out and about. Finally, we’re getting back out on the beaches and the parks and the lakefront and enjoying the weather and getting out from under this pandemic.”

Throughout that pandemic, Lightfoot has not hesitated to play the heavy.

She closed down the lakefront when she determined Chicagoans could not be trusted to maintain social distance and avoid gathering in large groups. That inspired a string of hysterical memes, which she embraced.

She cut off citywide liquor sales at 9 p.m. and drove around the city breaking up large groups.

On Tuesday, the mayor reprised her get-tough role with another lecture. It might even inspire yet another string of arms-folded memes.

“Yes, we need more support. Yes, we will hire more people. But fundamentally, Chicagoans, do yourself and your neighbors a favor,” she said. “Don’t litter.”

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