Who Cleans our Parks?

If you live in Okinawa you know that there are multitudes of parks scattered all over the island. Neighborhood children populate the parks - many of them free from their parents gaze. The parks are safe and clean. At first, I marveled at the cleanliness and warmth many of these parks convey. But after a while they revert to simply being parks again, and the appreciation fades.

This article is about how I regained my appreciation for the parks and for those who have a hand in keeping them safe and clean.

If you are dulled like me, I hope it restores gratitude.

If your gratitude is at the forefront of you mind - then I hope this gives you someone to direct your gratitude towards.

The park near my house

There is a small park next to my house that I walk by nearly everyday. The park is surrounded by trees and bushes and in the middle there is a large grassy hill. At the foot of the hill there is a sandbox and a slide. On the other side of the hill a water fountain for playful children. Many of the neighborhood kids come to this park to play throughout the day.

Although the small park is used by many, it stays very clean. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a junk filled park in Okinawa (Japan). I certainly appreciated the cleanliness, but I never really thought about who keeps the parks clean.

But as I reflected on my daily walks by the park, and practiced paying attention, I noticed that many different people and groups participate in the effort to keep our parks clean.  

Government Worker

Walking in the morning by the park, the same worker always seemed to be testing something around the water fountain. Turning the faucet on, filling up beakers of water. One day I asked him what he was doing. He said that was a government worker from the city office here to test the water in parks… every day. Keeping the water safe for children is one of the most over looked and maybe under appreciated role of park safety.

Landscaping Company

Near the end of summer when the trees and plants have the most growth, I walked by the park to see a landscaping company trimming the bushes, pruning the branches of the trees and mowing the grass. Now the children can play freely, the plants and trees can stay healthy and the parks stay clean.


On a cool autumn day, I walked by the park and saw people raking the leafs and loading bags full of leafs into a van with the label, “The Nippon Foundation”, an NPO organization. Adults with various types of disabilities are provided with jobs that serve my community and I never would have known.

Neighborhood do-gooder

And finally, the retired lone man. An older gentleman who lives in the same apartment complex as me, takes daily walks as well. While I walk to think, observe and exercise - he takes walks to collect trash from around the neighborhood. I asked him one day, why do you do this? Because it’s my community, he simply replied.

There are so many more people keeping our parks clean than I ever imagined. It makes a difference knowing who to thank for the things we may take for granted. So, thank you for keeping our parks clean so that our children can have a safe and clean place to roam free.