As the snow recedes after the long Chicago winter—and then again after the brief Chicago second-winter—spring color blooms along Milwaukee Avenue: Golden labels on bottles of High Life. The red and white triangles of cigarette packs. Little green bags stuffed with the hard work of numberless dogs.
Residents traversing Milwaukee, other main arteries and even the side streets of Logan Square have likely noticed the annual reappearance of strata of trash that lay buried beneath the relatively less-gross snow for months. It happens every year, but it never looks nice, and the increase in bars, restaurants and other service businesses along Milwaukee doesn’t seem to have helped—as highlighted in a recent post to the Logan Square Community Page on Facebook.
“As the snow and ice is melting away, I’m noticing just how awfully dirty and littered the block of Milwaukee between Fullerton and Sacramento, especially the west side, is,” writes the OP. “It seems like … the litter problem along much of Milwaukee has improved over the years, but this block is especially gross. … Is this a problem that a call to the alderman could help address?”
The post, as neighborhood posts tend to do, invited confirmation of the complaint, extravagant recrimination—and even a few proposed solutions. So, what can be done about our springtime trash bloom? A lot of the responsibility could end up in your hands, reader—particularly if you join LoganSquarist tomorrow for our Earth Day neighborhood cleanup. (Don’t worry—there’ll also be free coffee and an after party!) Here’s what you can do:
Grab a bag!
First solution, from Logan community members and aldermen alike, was to grab a garbage bag — and, for your own sake, don a pair of gloves. Alderman Scott Waguespack, who represents the 32nd Ward and thus a good chunk of Logan Square, described the problem fairly graphically and the solution just as simply.
“There’s a lot left behind on streets and sidewalks during the winter, dog doo, garbage, tree branches, leaves that don’t get picked up in late fall/winter, etc.,” Waguespack wrote in an email. “We strongly and actively encourage people to clean up as much as possible before winter snow hits so things aren’t covered up; i.e. raking leaves and garbage away from sewers, cleaning out sticks and plastics.”
Waguespack advised paying extra attention to those little bags of Fido’s proudest winter achievements. “We often push to get dog owners to clean up,” he said, “because dog doo doesn’t magically disappear into the snow.”
The aldermen also highlighted the problem of Amazon delivery bags getting left in the street; these tend to jam up street sweepers, he said. “We’ve had several jam the sweeper in the past few weeks,” he said. Businesses and residents should also aim to clear trash from drains in the spring, he added. If a clog’s too big for you, Waguespack said, you can report it via 311 or to the alderman’s office.
Join the Community!
If hauling armfuls of Arizona iced tea cans and damp Chicago Reader pages on your solo morning jog strikes you as a bit grim, try it with friends and/or neighbors. Some decently helpful respondents to the Logan Square Community Page OP suggested launching a weekly litter cleanup group, and incoming Alderman Daniel La Spata’s office encouraged joining Earth Day and other community cleanups—which LaSpata plans to do himself. (The newly elected alderman will represent the 1st Ward, which covers that stretch of Milwaukee.)
“Alderman-Elect Daniel La Spata has been participating in neighborhood clean-ups and will continue to
during Earth Week,” said Ally Carvalho, La Spata’s community transitions director and incoming constituent services and community development director.
LoganSquarist’s event tomorrow (April 20) meets at 10:30 a.m. at the Illinois Centennial Monument (3150 W. Logan Blvd). Come in your Saturday worst (nothing you’d mind getting a little grimy), and we’ll arm you with gloves, bags, complimentary caffeination and post-cleanup plans: The afterparty’s at Merchant (3137 W. Logan Blvd.), 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., where you can swap stories about the biggest McDonald’s cup you bagged.
The neighborhood’s Chamber of Commerce (3147 W. Logan Blvd.) encourages residents to join the city-wide Clean & Green Day of Service next week, April 27. There, the city will provide brooms, rakes, shovels and bags.
If you want to host your own cleanup, for Earth Day or thereafter, you can get tools and bags from the city via 311.
Work with your alderman
Alderman can do more than simply tell you to clean up yourself, thankfully. LaSpata’s office offered that they can work to publicize community cleanups and run their own, including by partnering with local groups. Waguespack’s office manages a cleanup crew consisting of folks fulfilling community-service requirements after misdemeanor convictions.
“They spend their weekends cleaning curbs, planting, removing graffiti, and other small tasks around the ward,” Waguespack said. “They often cleanup the Logan monument, but that deems to get trashed overnight.”
That community post suggested collecting and documenting the amount of trash along stretches like Milwaukee, then sharing that info with the alderman and asking for support like more trash cans. (Milwaukee Avenue has very few public ones.) The OP even launched an Instagram account for the purpose, though it seems to have fizzled after a couple posts.
Street sweeping launched for the season April 1, and you can aid that work, Waguespack emphasized, by getting those cloggy Amazon bags off the street. The 1st Ward publicizes street-sweeping schedules via the ward website, newsletters, social media and meetings, Waguespack said. You can also visit the city’s Sweeper Tracker tool if you want to know where those orange no-parking signs will appear or if you’re just particularly bored at work.
Call 311 or Hire Someone?
Depending on where the trash appears, your alderman and the city can help de-trashify the area in other ways, too, Carvalho said. “[I]f we are discussing litter abatement in a park, we could work with the park district to clean it up,” she said. “Additionally, if the garbage is on a vacant lot, the alderman can encourage people to report it to 311 (here) and city crews will come out.”
Residents are responsible for their own yards, of course, Carvalho added, but neighborhoods can get further help in Special Service Areas (SSAs). Chicago’s term for Business Improvement Districts, these special tax areas can put local property taxes toward expanded services, including beautification. In Wicker Park, for example, the SSA money pays contractor Cleanslate to grab litter within the SSA boundaries.
Thats’ managed through the Wicker Park/Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, Waguespack’s and LaSpata’s offices both emphasized. One responder to the community post suggested hitting up the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce and your alderman with the idea.