VALPARAISO | Tower Park and its surrounding neighborhood got some needed sprucing up Monday as part of an initiative officials hope to replicate in other areas of the city.
Adopt a Block Valparaiso is dedicated to improving the city by empowering residents and local organizations to volunteer and take responsibility for their neighborhoods, said Christine Hisick, community and staff specialist with the city.
“This is our pilot launch,” Hisick said. “When other churches, businesses and organizations get involved, they will be organizing their own blocks and projects.”
The project kicked off with the help of 22 students from the health careers class at the Porter County Career and Technical Center.
Students donned plastic gloves and carried black garbage bags as they scoured the park for litter and debris.
Center Director Jon Groth said students in each of the center's classes will get a chance to participate in the clean up every month over the course of the school year.
Students from 10 high schools, including Valparaiso, Chesterton, Portage and Morgan and Washington townships, will be involved.
“We're always looking for community service projects, and we use the park as part of our school,” Groth said.
“It's really easy right now. January and February might be a little different.”
Laura Frump, 17, a senior at Morgan Township High School, and Paige Smith, 17, a junior at Valparaiso, said they found cigarette butts, pop cans, pudding cups and mint wrappers.
Both students said they use the park during class breaks, and they were happy to help clean it.
“It's a good way to give back to the community, and it sets a good example for other people and younger kids,” Frump said.
Hisick said residents of the Northview neighborhood also were invited to participate. Residents in each neighborhood would be responsible for their own clean up tools and supplies but the city “may be able to help out when it can,” Hisick said.
Hisick is heading up the effort along with the city's code enforcement department and department of parks and recreation.
Dan McGuire, Parks and Recreation superintendent, said the work the students are doing in Tower Park will save the city a couple hundred dollars in staff time. He said he hopes residents also will consider adopting a park in their neighborhood.
Vicki Thrasher, director of code enforcement and building commissioner, said she had seen the program done in other communities throughout the country and thought it was something Valparaiso residents would do.
“They can do as much or as little as they want,” Thrasher said. “It's whatever the neighborhood wants it to be.”
To get your neighborhood involved, contact Hisick at (219) 462-1161 or firstname.lastname@example.org.