The Chicago Park District is looking to hire more workers to clean up beaches and parks as Mayor Lori Lightfoot called on residents - venturing out more as the city reopens from coronavirus restrictions - to stop littering in public spaces.
When asked about litter at beaches and parks at an unrelated news conference on Tuesday, Chicago Park District Supt. Michael Kelly said the city has been hiring and continues to see a need for more workers to address the issue.
"We're still hiring. We've been hiring; we need more and more junior laborers. So again, 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.
"This is not a new issue," he continued. "We go through this every year and we've tried everything from 'hit the can' and 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."
Available positions can be found on the park district's website.
"But look, you have a busy weekend, I don't care if it's on the lakefront, in the neighborhoods, you're gonna see a ton of trash," Kelly said.
Kelly said Chicago residents "could always do better" when it comes to littering, but called the issue a "good problem to have" in light of the pandemic that has forced the closure of public spaces and halted in-person gatherings over the course of the past 15 months.
"The vast majority of folks, they hit the can but they could always do better and you wrestle with it, but you know what, it's a good problem to have," Kelly said. "People are out and about and finally, we're getting back out on the beaches and in the parks and the lakefront, enjoying the weather and getting out from under this pandemic."
"So the bottom line, to answer your question, I'm never satisfied with it. We know it. We see it all the time. It's a constant adjustment. We work with communities, we try to do the best we can," he added.
Lightfoot then issued a call to residents, asking them to be more thoughtful in parks and on beaches, placing the impetus on those who leave trash behind to refrain from doing so.
"What we really should also be talking about is 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 going to come behind you," Lightfoot said.
"If you're out there in a park enjoying yourself, that's terrific, but clean up after yourself. You know, I'm an old Girl Scout. And I believe when you're out there, you leave the environment better than when you found it. And that means picking up trash," she continued. "Yes, we need more support. Yes, we will hire more people, but fundamentally, Chicagoans, do yourself and your neighbors a favor: don't litter."