Have you ever looked inside a public garbage can?

Robin McPeek has, as one of the dozens who volunteered to haul the trash out of neighborhood parks.

She stepped up last March when budget cuts prompted Colorado Springs officials to pull 396 cans from 128 parks. She joined the Proud of Our Parks group, founded by Steve Immel to get people to adopt the cans and keep parks clean.

What McPeek discovered quickly is that public garbage cans are disgusting.

In fact, after six months of public service, McPeek said she’s had enough.

“I’m burned out,” she said. “At this point, it’s wearing a little thin on me.”

McPeek adopted the Bonforte Park at North Wahsatch Avenue and Jackson Street — her neighborhood park. It has a couple baseball fields, a soccer field, a playground, two tennis courts and gets heavy use.

She figured it would be no big deal to grab three bags of trash each week and haul them away.

Then reality smacked her in the face. And in the nose.

“I have a little Jeep,” she said. “I thought I’d put the trash in back and haul it to the Ace store in the Bon Shopping Center. They agreed to take the trash.”

But the first time she emptied the park’s three cans was a revelation.

“The trash bags are too big,” she said. “And there’s a lot of liquid in the bags. The first trip made my Jeep a mess. I had to get a little trailer.”

Even then, it was a chore.

“It’s so heavy. And dirty. It’s dirty, stinky, heavy trash.”

Worse, yet, was the stuff she discovered ended up in the cans.

“The first time I found someone had emptied all their household trash in the can,” she said. “It didn’t make me happy.”

She caught a break when another couple volunteered to help, alternating each week with her.

Still, she grew more disgusted each week.

“I don’t think so highly of humanity anymore,” she said.

Immel, of the parks group, said other individuals who adopted parks reported feeling unappreciated, like McPeek, and burned out.

“After three or four months of emptying trash cans by themselves, it’s not so much fun,” Immel said. “The key is getting groups of people behind it.”

For example, Sue Iverson organized a group to adopt Broadmoor Glenn Park.

“I have three other families I rotate with,” Iverson said. “It’s gone pretty well.”

Her group empties the cans twice a week. And another family volunteered to mow the grass in the park’s playground area.

“We want our neighborhood to be a great place to live,” Iverson said. “We have great pride in our neighborhood.”

McPeek has pride, as well. But her energy and enthusiasm have worn out.

“I don’t want to go through another summer,” she said. “This is why I pay taxes. For a time, citizens can step up. But I’m done.”

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