Saturday in the Park
A beautiful weekend day takes a turn for the strange at an Arbutus playground.
Have a nice weekend? Beautiful weather, wasn't it? Not the sort of day to get arrested, but that's almost what happened.
My crime? Cleaning up dog poop.
On Saturday morning, I took my little girls to the Arbor Manor Park playground on Elm Road, one of our favorite places.
We hadn't been there long when we discovered that some inconsiderate person had allowed his or her dog to do his business beneath the monkey bars.
Children had walked through the dog deposit, and there was visible splotches of dog feces smeared on the playground equipment—on the climbing wall, on the slides, on steps, all over the place.
One of my daughters came over upset that she had dog poop on her hands. Both kids had feces on their shoes and clothing.
We had to leave to wash up, of course. As we gathered our things up, I saw the mother of a toddler on the play set dash to her car to get wipes to clean her child's hands. I thought about other kids who would be using the playground.
What to do? I could call the county parks department on Monday, and at some point maybe they'd send out a crew to clean up the playground. But meanwhile, children would still be playing on surfaces contaminated with dog poop. I could not in good conscience allow that to happen.
I quickly formulated a plan. I'd go to Home Depot on Washington Boulevard, buy a few scrub brushes, buckets and disposable gloves, some Simple Green disinfecting cleaner, and clean the equipment myself.
Simple Green, by the way, is described as a non-toxic, biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaner.
I swung by the Baltimore County Fire Department Station 5, on Washington Boulevard in Halethorpe, and spoke with the Lieutenant on duty to explain my plan. I need some water to rinse the playground equipment, I said. Give me an hour, then come by with a truck to hose off the play sets. The Lieutenant agreed. All good.
Everything was falling into place. Surely, with all of the other parents on the playground at the time, all it would take is one or two to help out with scrub brushes, and everything would be cleaned in no time.
Oh, how wrong I was.
By the time I arrived back at Arbor Manor Park at around 1 p.m., some people were gathering for a birthday party. A neighbor across the street from the park was kind enough to fill up four small buckets with water from his garden hose.
When I set to work scrubbing dog poop off the playground equipment, the birthday party guests called the police on me. In all, three officers and and a supervisor showed up at the playground.
Once it was established that I was not actually breaking any laws, I finished scrubbing feces off the play sets.
Then an engine from Station 5 pulled up, and a crew pulled out hoses and rinsed off the playground equipment. Job done.
I'm not writing this for a pat on the back. I saw a problem, and I addressed it. I spent my own money and did it on my own time.
I know of others, such as Mike McAuliffe of the Halethorpe Improvement Association, a person of similar mindset, who spends his non-work time scrubbing graffiti off walls and cleaning up overgrown weeds, and Nikki Marlatt-Young of Arbutus Improvement Association, who spearheaded an effort to clean up a footpath to the Arbutus Elementary School athletic field.
If only there were more people like McAuliffe and Marlatt-Young, think of what this place could be like. They act not for themselves, but for the betterment of the entire community. Just like my small act.
I do, however, have some messages to deliver.
To the person who left the dog poop on a playground: Shame on you. A responsible dog owner cleans up after his pet.
If anybody ever sees a pet owner who doesn't clean up when his dog does his business on a playground, let me know and I will personally return the deposit to the owner.
To the officers of the Wilkens Precinct who responded: Sorry you wasted your time on a non-issue. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
To the firefighters of Station 5: Thanks for the water.
To the birthday party guests: Sorry I "ruined" your party by cleaning up the poop that your children were playing in.