How to Host a Park Clean-Up in San Francisco




Introduction: How to Host a Park Clean-Up in San Francisco

You don't have to wait for Earth Day to do some green good around your neighborhood. Host a Park Clean-Up any time of year (weather permitting, of course) and improve your local hang out while making friends with your neighbors. Do it right and you're sure to get some free coffee too.

To do this Instructable you will need:

-phone/computer to get in touch with the Recreation and Park Department

Start with Step 1 about a month before you want your Clean-Up Extravaganza to begin.

This is an item on the Neighbors Project Checklist.

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Think about it yourself and ask your neighbors: which park do you use most often? Which part of that park exactly? KEEP IT IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD; people will be most excited to help clean up an area that they themselves use and will be more likely to help out if they don't have to travel far to do it.


Make a FRIEND in the RECREATION AND PARK DEPARTMENT (call 415.831.5500) who can help you with the following:

-Getting a PERMIT if necessary.

-Writing up a LIABILITY DOCUMENT that ensures the Park will not be legally responsible if anyone steps on glass etc while cleaning up.

-Providing clean up EQUIPMENT (like those alien hand picker-uppers and gloves) and trash bags.

-Providing DAY-OF SUPPORT such as delivery of clean up equipment and disposal of collected trash.

-Doing OUTREACH and promotion within the Park Department.

-Any bumps in the road along the way. This won't be their first Clean-Up day, so go ahead and use their expertise.


This is perhaps the easiest step, but it takes careful consideration nonetheless. DATE and TIME are essential. Beware of holiday weekends when people might be out of town or hosting, and major sports events. Early Saturday morning might be a tough sell for those late night Friday revelers, and same goes with early Sunday morning for the church-goers. And remember that people will want to hang out and help out for probably no more than two hours.

Still unsure? Try a Saturday from about 10:30 to 12.

And of course, set a RAIN DATE or a rainy weather alternative activity. (Enlist strangers to clean out your basement!)


People LOVE FREE STUFF. Get a hold of some freebies to hand out to clean-up participants as a way to say thank you. Ask local businesses if they'd be willing to chip in some refreshments in exchange for some free advertisement. Some banks will donate money so you can buy things that aren't being donated.

Try to keep it local since the whole event is essentially about the neighborhood. However, if you find yourself sponsor-less as time is ticking down, hit up some bigger names that are trying to do some good. But be sure to ask a couple weeks in advance because plenty of places require a specific, minimum advance notice for these kinds of things.

Regardless of who you ask, be sure to have a one-page write up with your contact information on it handy. Chances are the person you want to talk to won't be there when you stop by, but they'll be more likely to call you back if you can leave something for them.

And don't forget to mention the FREE STUFF in your promotion material of Step 5.


Here is the part where you let other people know about your big plans. Write up a quick, informative and inviting PARAGRAPH to send along to the following places:

-- neighborhood associations

-- school associations like P.T.A.s (Remember when you were a young activist? Or when you had community service graduation requirements?)

-- (Find do-gooders from all across the city!)


-- neighborhood blogs (Include general San Francisco ones like as well)

-- neighborhood newspapers (Include big ones too like the Chronicle and the Guardian.)

And of course, make a FLYER. You can put these up in the windows of local businesses, on community bulletin boards, lamp posts, mailboxes... If you're feeling extra friendly, you can even stand on a corner and hand them out to passersby.

The more people you tell, the more people will come. However, be aware that listings in newspapers and such don't tend to attract many people. Your best bet is always to reach out to organized groups (like your neighborhood association) and Volunteer Match.


ARRIVE EARLY. That is, before any of the other volunteers do--you don't want people waiting around awkwardly and then leaving because they think it's been canceled. This shouldn't be too hard if you plan to meet with your Park Department friend before the clean-up begins so you can get all the necessary gear. You'll also want to make sure that you have plenty of time to set up all that free food you got.

If you're with an organization that is, uh, organizing this event, you'll probably want to set up an INFORMATION TABLE. A surprising amount of people will be curious about what people with picker-uppers and trash bags are doing. Take this opportunity to tell them about why it is you're doing this, and to invite them to join. (So remember to have extra clean-up gear ready.) The information table could also serve as a place for walk-by neighbors to talk to you about their other neighborhoodly concerns.


You heard me: PICK UP THAT TRASH. Until every single bubblegum wrapper is gone. Or until your bag is full. Or until you run out of bags. Or until you run out of free coffee. Clean up for however long you are inspired to do so!

And of course, MAKE FRIENDS. Parks and garbage can bring lots of different people together. And it's not like it's group brain surgery-- you should be able to clean up and chat at the same time quite easily.


Once those bags are packed with trash, hand them off to your Recreation and Park Department friend who will properly dispose of them.

As the festivities die down, make sure you say GOODBYE and THANK YOU to all the participants. Maybe you even took down everyone's email addresses at your information booth so you could thank them all again (as well as stay in touch with them about your organization's or neighborhood's future events).

And of course, thank the local businesses that donated their money or goods to the event. Do it in person, and take down your flyer from their window while you're at it.


Go out and enjoy your clean park with your neighbors that you now know better.

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    A suggestion for event promotion: post the event on Facebook. People who wouldn't otherwise know about it will see their friends joining, and they can RSVP to give you a rough idea of how many want to participate.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    The Neighborhood Parks Council is happy to assist community members with setting up a workday at their neighborhood park, and also in many other aspects of starting a park group. We offer regular coalition meetings with guest speakers, guidance on how to contact and work with Recreation and Park Department staff, fiscal sponsorship for fundraising projects, and much more. Please visit our website or email Outreach Coordinator, Matthew Silva, at or by phone at 415.621.3260 with any questions.


    Wow this would do very good in Brazil. Although I don't think local people would be encouraged by a cup of coffee. Strange the county doesn't help set-up these good initiatives. Thanks. Michel Portugal