Laurel residents Orwin Shortt and Maggie Chandler spend time most weekends picking up litter around Laurel Lake. They would appreciate a little help.
“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Thank you,’ but in the back of my mind I think, ‘You could help, too,’” Shortt said. “We’d really like people to be aware and to lend a helping hand.”
The lake is part of the 29-acre Granville Gude Park, nestled at the intersection of Cherry Lane and Mulberry Street.
Chandler, 67, a retired U.S. National Park Service ranger, and Shortt, 31, a Howard County Public Schools teacher, both live near the lake. For the past three years, they have come to the park one to three times per week, weather permitting, to remove trash. Sometimes, Shortt said, he gets help from his brother-in-law and nephews.
Shortt said that after moving to the area four years ago, he loved to walk with his family around the park; what he didn’t love was the trash he saw, so he decided to do something about it. He contacted Laurel’s Parks and Recreation Department and volunteered with its Adopt-a-Park Program, as did Chandler.
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Lhotsky said Shortt and Chandler provide an invaluable service.
“We’ll do a trash run through Gude Park about three times a week, but what Maggie and Orwin are doing is getting into places we might not otherwise get to,” Lhotsky said, noting that his department focuses on the trash receptacles and most-used areas of the park.
Lhotsky said Shortt and Chandler also provide an extra set of eyes, meeting a couple of times per year with him to discuss what they have noticed in the park.
Lhotsky said approximately 10 people volunteer to clean the city’s 19 parks, but more volunteers would be appreciated. People interested in volunteering can visit the city’s website, http://www.cityoflaurel.org/content/adopt-park-program, for more information.
Chandler said she finds all sorts of strange items in the park. Once, she fished a wedding album out of the lake, which, she joked, might have been thrown there by a betrayed bride. Shortt said that many times, he has pulled shopping carts out of the lake.
Shortt said he picks up an average of six regular-sized kitchen bags of trash whenever he goes out; Chandler uses larger bags but said she picks up an equivalent amount. The volunteers supply the bags themselves.
“During spring and summer, you could pick up double that amount at any time,” Shortt said, noting that Christmas also was a particularly bad time, as strong winds blew holiday debris into the park from nearby homes and businesses.
Derrick Gibbons, who lives nearby and walks through the park regularly, said he has been pleased with the park’s appearance.
“Normally, I’m going at a brisk walk, but from what I’ve seen, it generally looks very clean,” Gibbons said.
Chandler said she enjoys the social aspects of her efforts.
“Cleaning up, I get to talk to all the joggers, the bikers, everyone. So it’s nice. I’m doing a service, plus it’s good for me to get out,” she said.
Chandler said she hopes their efforts can help keep the lake area healthy.
“There’s not a lot of green spaces left, so the green spaces we have, we have to keep them presentable for everyone’s enjoyment,” she said.
To do that, Shortt said they are going to need help.
“We need more bodies out here. We need more volunteers,” he said.