Rain makes for messy annual cleanup at Springside Park in Pittsfield

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PITTSFIELD — Pro tip: Bags of garbage are even heavier when wet.

Dozens of Berkshire residents learned that lesson Saturday as they slogged through a muddied Springside Park picking up all sorts of rubbish in a near-torrential downpour.

"We found glass," said sopping wet Charleigh Pulley, 6, as she gestured to her mother. "That's why we have the glass bucket."

For at least 30 years, volunteers from Pittsfield and elsewhere cap the long Berkshire winter by participating in the annual cleanup at the more-than-200-acre park.

Charleigh's mother, Felisha Pulley, of Adams, kept a watchful eye on what she and Charleigh's 7-year-old sister were picking out of the mud.

"In spite of the rain, there are people out there," organizer Bernie Mack said as he took the names of volunteers at a check-in tent.

Mack, who has been involved with the cleanup for the past 20 years, said that, in the early years, groups regularly would come across large debris like furniture, mattresses, construction material and even abandoned cars.

These days, as the park is more attended to, those finds are less common.

A more prevalent issue, though, is signs of people living in the woods, he said.

On Saturday, several volunteers stumbled across vacant tents.

"I just picked up the cans and bags that were on the ground around it," Joe Sondrini said after finding one of the shelters.

"We leave them alone and contact the city of Pittsfield," Mack said.

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Discarded syringes also have become more prevalent over the past five years, he said.

"I think we've found seven so far," Lisa Tully, of Pittsfield, said shortly after 10 a.m. as she filled a bag of trash near the public gardens.

The syringes were all capped and, for the most part, lined North Street, she said.

As the heavy rain poured down on a dirt trail behind north playground, Kristin Winsett emerged from the woods while pulling a black trash bag behind her.

In her other hand, she held up a large piece of what appeared to be melted plastic.

"We found what looks to be a burned car," she said, gesturing to what she thought was a spark plug barely visible in the pebble-covered debris.

While the car remnants were the most unusual find of the day, she also had filled a bag with at least 15 nips bottles and far too many discarded tampon applicators, she said.

Still, she believes that with every event, the park becomes a little cleaner.

"It's getting a little bit better every year," Winsett said. "This is only my second bag. Last year, I filled at least six, easy."

Bob Presutti, a city arborist who has been caring for the trees in the park since 1998, agrees.

"It's actually safer and cleaner now. A lot of people don't think that, because they don't have the perspective that I do," he said. "I only say that because I saw the change over the years."

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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