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Staff shortage leads to neglect of trash cans in Cortez city parks

Trash is seen overflowing from trash cans at Parque de Vida. (Dan Jenkins/Courtesy photo)
City blames staff shortages, time spend removing snow

The Cortez Parks and Recreation Department has cleaned up trash littering Parque de Vida and other parks in the city after months of neglect attributed to a staffing shortage.

After complaints about the state of the trash bins in the public parks, Director of Parks and Recreation Creighton Wright said most of the trash had been cleaned up as of Tuesday, and the office hoped to resolve the problem by the end of the week.

The emailed complaint came from Cortez resident Dan Jenkins, who documented the state of the trash in the parks with photos. “It’s unsanitary. It’s filthy. It’s a public health issue. It’s everywhere in the Parque de Vida trash can areas,” Jenkins said at the beginning of his email.

Jenkins, who said he has tracked the situation, noted that only one trash can had been emptied between mid-December and mid-February, leaving the rest to overflow and cause a mess. He added that the trash was inappropriate for children’s play areas.

“I'll also speculate that thousands of citizens have come by and seen the blatant neglect. I've spoken with many of them on my winter trips to exercise around Parque de Vida. They concur that it's unsanitary & unacceptable,” Jenkins wrote.

Overflowing trash litters the ground in Parque de Vida due to a Parks and Recreation staffing shortage. (Dan Jenkins/Courtesy photo)

Wright responded by acknowledging that the trash issue had gotten out of hand, citing staff shortages as the reason trash had been neglected for so long.

“It’s a capacity issue,” Wright said. “Normally, this time of year we have three staff in parks. Since Thanksgiving, we had only one. The one staff member’s primary focus from about the time you were watching these cans (end of December) was snow removal. It seemed just when he got caught up, another storm came in. When he had a break in the weather two weeks ago, the trash was frozen into the cans.”

Wright said hiring two new individuals on the Parks and Rec team in the past few weeks has alleviated the pressure created by having one staff member do a job that needed at least three people. Now, there will be more attention paid to trash and other similar issues.

“This will provide the necessary capacity to address this and ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Wright said.

Wright added that he also has plans to create a volunteer program dedicated to helping with these kinds of issues when they face staff shortages or other circumstances that would lead to trash being neglected, allowing the community to be involved with taking care of the city.

“Perhaps there are opportunities for residents to help prevent issues like this from getting away from us,” he said.