Residents, city clean up Bunker Hill Monument during shutdown
While thousands of federal government workers remain furloughed during a partial shutdown, a group of Charlestown dog owners, as well as city workers, have been clearing away trash from the Bunker Hill Monument.
The national park, like others across the country, aren’t staffed because of the shutdown, which began last month. And in the case of Bunker Hill, a park popular with dog lovers, members of CharlestownDogs, an organization of dog owners, began picking up garbage after seeing it pile up.
“This is our town, our community, and we care about it. We will not tolerate a big mess when we can do something about it,” said Christopher Lovell, who helped found the group.
On Thursday, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said he had asked the Public Works Department to clean up at Bunker Hill and Dorchester Heights after residents complained trash wasn’t being picked up.
“Always willing to lend a helping hand, PWD crews are emptying overflowing trash receptacles at the #BunkerHillMonument in #Charlestown tonight,” the department said in a statement on Twitter Wednesday night. “While the #GovernmentShutdown continues — the work in #Boston never stops!”
Walsh retweeted the post and tagged it “#TrumpShutdown” — probably a reference to Trump’s declaration last month that he would “take the mantle” for a shutdown.
Since the start of the partial shutdown last month, national parks haven’t been staffed as parts of the government have gone unfunded.
The shutdown began after President Trump and congressional Democrats could not reach an agreement to fund the government that included money for a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
A recording on a National Park Service telephone line for media inquiries said staff were unable to take calls because of the shutdown.
In a statement posted Thursday afternoon on its website, the Park Service said it would resume “trash collection, urgent roadwork and sanitation services” at its parks in Washington, D.C., starting Friday.
The service will use fee revenue collected by national parks across the country to fund those operations, the statement said.
Undine Kipka, an Environmental Protection Agency engineer who is among the federal workers affected by the shutdown locally, praised the volunteer effort. But she noted it’s a sign of how serious the situation has become.
“I wish it didn’t have to be that way,” she said. “This should be the job of the federal government, and the federal government should be open.”
Furloughed workers are planning a rally Friday in Boston to protest the work stoppage, said Kipka, who;s also second vice president for the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3428.
The union represents more than 400 EPA workers in Boston and Chelmsford, she said.
The rally is set to start at 11:45 a.m. across from the EPA’s offices in Post Office Square, she said.
Kipka said she is concerned that most Americans are not aware of the financial hardships the shutdown imposes on federal workers who are furloughed or must continue to work without pay.
A group of Boston residents helping to maintain a park suggests that people are beginning to understand how the shutdown will affect them.
“I think it’s a start, that the public is beginning to understand that this is definitely not a good thing,” Kipka said of the shutdown.
For the past few years, the dog group has also volunteered to help maintain the park, because of its popularity with residents, including dog owners, Lovell said.
And since the shutdown began, about 30 members of the group have been going to the park every few days to bag trash and dog waste, Lovell said.
Because the trash bins are locked, volunteers have been tying empty garbage bags to them and posting signs that encourage visitors to use the bags, he said. Volunteers collect the bags and dispose of them with the rest of their household waste, he said.
“We want Charlestown to be an attractive destination to anyone who [goes] there,” Lovell said.
Arthur Colpack, a member of the dog group, said the volunteer cleanup work was about having respect for the neighborhood and its national park.
“This is a wonderful neighborhood . . . I would like it to stay nice,” said Colpack, a Charlestown resident for 40 years.
On Wednesday night, Walsh said: “No matter what happens in Washington, Boston will keep getting things done — what we do best. Thank you to our unstoppable Public Works!”