Princess Owatonna

The iconic statue of Princess Owatonna overlooks Mineral Springs Park in the city that, as legend has it, bears her name. The park is one of Owatonna’s most popular public amenities, and starting next week the Parks and Recreation department will be kicking off a new park cleanup program to encourage the public to help keep Mineral Springs and other city parks clean and beautiful. (Press file photo)

With many typical summertime activities remain canceled or limited due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Owatonna Parks and Recreation Department continues to report greater use of the city’s parks and trails.

With more people, however, comes more litter.

“People do a pretty decent job cleaning up after themselves, but sometimes things can just kind of get away,” said Mary Jo Knudson, the recreation supervisor for the city. “A lot of our larger, heavily used parks bring in people not from Owatonna, and they tend to have less investment in the community and might leave some stuff behind.”

For a number of years, the Parks and Rec staff have considered different ideas on how to stay ahead of the trash in the parks and trails system, hoping to keep the public amenities beautiful. Starting Wednesday, Parks and Rec will provide park clean-up kits for those who register. It’s a new program Knudson hopes will be just as popular as the parks themselves.

“I don’t see why it wouldn’t be, a lot of people are really passionate about our parks,” Knudson said.

Knudson explained that the program will work by people registering for one of the four kits every Wednesday through October. The kits will include a garbage picker, garbage bags, and a pail, and will be left outside the Park Shop with the name of the family who reserved the kit attached to each. Knudson said when the individuals are done picking up trash, they just leave the filled garbage bags by a trash can and return the rest of the kit to the office.

“This will be easy enough where people can do it on their own time at whatever parks or trails they wish,” Knudson said. “Being able to choose their time as opposed to trying to get a group to meet in a specific spot on a specific day will hopefully make it easier.”

Knudson said that there will be no deposit required to take part in the cleanup, but people will be billed for the equipment if it is not returned to the office.

“We may be able to expand how many days we run it if it becomes popular,” Knudson said. “In general, we want everyone to appreciate our parks and how nice the parks we have are.”

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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