Extreme spring cleaning comes to Bay City’s parks this week

Two events aimed at putting volunteers to work to spruce up Bay City are coming together for the first time on April 23.

The annual Wenonah Park Cleanup Day and United Way Day of Caring are joining forces to make the biggest impact possible. To sign up, click here, check out the Facebook event, or text “volunteer2021” to 91999.

The volunteer effort gets underway at 8 a.m. on April 23 with a light breakfast at Wenonah Park, located on Water Street in the heart of Downtown Bay City along the Saginaw River. T-shirts, masks, and site assignments will be handed out at that time.

Many of the volunteers will remain in Wenonah Park to work, while smaller groups will be dispersed to other sites, including The Salvation Army, Good Samaritan Rescue Mission, Golden Horizons Adult Day Care, The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Great Lakes Bay Region, and Carroll Park on Bay City’s East Side.

Work is set to wrap up midday and volunteers can grab lunch back at Wenonah Park before checking out.

Organizers stressed that volunteers do not have to commit to the full day – even just an hour or two is greatly appreciated. Volunteers will be put to work raking, mulching, picking up trash and twigs, cleaning, and painting, among other tasks.

“You’d be amazed at how much yard waste you can pick up during an event like this,” says Rob Clark, director of communications and community relations at Michigan Sugar Company, who founded Wenonah Park Cleanup Day in 2014. “But many hands make quick work, so we’re hoping to have a small army of volunteers out there.”

Clark says he is excited to partner with United Way Day of Caring, which was established in 2015.

“It just makes perfect sense to bring these events together,” Clark says. “They really have a shared mission for sprucing up our community.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, neither Wenonah Park Cleanup Day nor United Way Dar of Caring were held in 2020. This year, most of the cleanup efforts will be outdoors. In the case where any indoor cleaning takes place, proper social distancing measures will be in place.

Volunteers should expect to get dirty and are asked to bring gloves and appropriate shoes and clothes. While Bay County Habitat for Humanity and O’Donnells Earthworks will provide some supplies, volunteers also should consider bringing their own rakes, brooms, shovels, wheelbarrows, and other lawncare tools.

“If you’ve got a rake, bring it. If you’ve got a shovel, bring it. If you’ve got a push broom, bring it. And put your name on it,” says Nicole Luczak, associate director of the United Way of Bay County, who is overseeing the recruitment of volunteers.

She says event is a great way to cap off National Volunteer Week, which takes place this year April 18-24.

“None of this is possible without our amazing volunteers,” she says.

“We strongly encourage all those who have helped at a past Wenonah Park Cleanup Day or a United Way Day of Caring to sign up and join our army on April 23. We’ll need 40-50 people in Wenonah Park and five to 10 at each of the other sites. This is a great opportunity for local businesses, schools, service clubs, and other organizations to get involved for the betterment of the community.”

The event also isn’t possible without strong support from a number of community partners, including Paul Davis Restoration, which has overseen the cleaning and repainting of the Ring of Friendship and fountain at Wenonah Park since the inception of that event.

“They donate their time, their employees, and their resources to come down and oversee the cleaning of the fountain. They make it look so good,” says Clark, noting the idea for Wenonah Park Cleanup Day begin when he was working as editor of The Bay City Times, which at the time had an office overlooking the park.

“I looked out the window one day and saw that the fountain and the ring needed some love; needed a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint.”

He wrote a column about it and was pleasantly surprised when the idea to clean the fountain turned into an effort to spruce up the entire park.

“I’ve always had a strong affection for Wenonah Park,” Clark says, noting his favorite memory of the park was seeing Ray Charles perform there during the first Tall Ship Celebration in 2001. “We are so lucky to have a space like this in the heart of our downtown.”

He added a little-known fact about the Ring of Friendship.

“A lot of people don’t realize that the ring was designed and placed where it is for a specific reason,” he says. “If you stand on Center Avenue and look west through the ring, you’ll see the Bay County War Memorial in Veterans Memorial Park. It was all set up that way intentionally.”

Other organizations helping again with this year’s event are McLaren Bay Region, which is providing bottled water, the DoubleTree Hotel, which is providing cookies and coffee in the morning, and the State Theater, which is providing lunch.
The biggest partner, however, is the City of Bay City, Clark says, noting city officials and staff have long partnered to help make Wenonah Park Cleanup Day a success.

“They certainly do a great job of mowing, and raking, and keeping the parks looking great all year long,” he says. “But with limited resources they just don’t have a time when they can send 40-50 people into the park to really dig into some of these projects. That’s why we’re doing this. Plus, cleaning up a park is a wonderful way to show your community pride, something I know we have a lot of in Bay City.”

Once all is said and done, Clark says he likes to walk and admire the work the volunteers have put in.

“It’s just one of those quiet moments for me to remember all of the things I love about Bay City. And the thing I love most about Bay City is the people,” he says. “It doesn’t take long to find someone to help in this town.”