By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The formerly tranquil and pristine setting of Owl’s Head Park is rapidly turning into a trash-filled mess, according to residents who live near the Bay Ridge recreation spot.
Community Board 10 leaders and elected officials have also expressed concern over the litter problem at Owl’s Head Park, a 24.2-acre bucolic paradise on the Bay Ridge waterfront. The entrance to the park is located on Colonial Road and 68th Street.
The trash troubles stem from large groups of people, including schools, which hold picnics in the park and then leave piles of litter behind, residents said.
The litter includes leftover snacks, ziplock bags, used tissues, bottles and cartons, as well as dirty diapers.
“It is a sanitation problem because the park can be infested with rats and roaches, and the sanitation problem makes Bay Ridge residents to avoid this park when it is still unclean,” James Wu told the Brooklyn Eagle in an email.
“Everyone is welcome to visit the park, but leaving behind all the litter is not welcome,” said Wu, who documented the litter problem by taking photos after a school group recently visited the park. He provided the Eagle with the photos.
Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, thought the litter problem was so serious, she brought it up at a recent district service cabinet meeting, a regular session district managers have with local police, Parks Department and Sanitation Department officials.
“The litter stems from people not cleaning up after themselves. We see a lot of large groups holding picnics in the park. It’s a recurring problem and we need a recurring solution,” Beckmann told the Eagle.
Following the district service cabinet meeting, Beckmann met with officials from the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP). “We are coordinating with the Parks Department. We have asked for more pails. And new signs are being posted to tell people about the sanitation rules. They will be posted in different languages,” she said.
Beckmann said groups with 20 or more people need a permit from the Parks Department to hold a picnic in the park.
PEP officers can’t be in the park at all times, Beckmann said.
In his email, Wu indicated that the problem is being caused by schools outside of Bay Ridge bringing in large groups of children.
“I’m willing to reach out to the schools to tell them the importance of obeying the rules,” Beckmann said.
Local elected officials are also working with the Parks Department on a long-term solution.
“We continue to work closely with the Parks Department to address the litter at Owls Head. Parks is planning to install some new multilingual signage around Owls Head which highlights the rules and regulations of the park – especially no barbecues or open fires,” Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said.
John Quaglione, deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Mary Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn), said Golden’s office has contacted Parks Department officials to express concern about the quality of life in the park and the surrounding community.
“Additionally, we have had numerous conversations with NYPD and Parks about an effort, now in the earlier part of the summer, to crack down on barbecues in our parks. Barbecuing in the parks is against the law, and if we can prevent barbecues, we can eliminate the garbage and conditions found present in the park after such activities,” Quaglione told the Eagle.
Golden also plans to work with two volunteer groups, the Shore Road Parks Conservancy, and the Friends and Neighbors of Owl's Head Park, “to maintain a clean and beautiful park,” Quaglione said.
Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, said the agency does the best it can in terms of picking up the trash New Yorkers leave behind, but that citizens have to do their part.
“Each summer day, Parks picks up about 120 tons of garbage left behind at our beaches, ballfields, picnic areas and other properties – that number becomes quite higher after a sunny holiday weekend. Litter doesn’t grow on trees, and we need New Yorkers to be our partners in this effort by being good stewards of our parks and picking up after themselves,” she wrote in an email.
On the Parks Department’s website, Owl’s Head Park is described as a spacious property that “contains rolling hills, peaceful, meandering pathways and breathtaking views of the New York skyline and striking Verrazano Narrows Bridge.”
The park boasts basketball courts, a playground area, a spray pool, a popular skateboard park and a 150-foot long by 40-foot wide dog run.
Owl's Head also has a large hill that kids love to sled down in the winter.