Crews spend day cleaning up after KC parks trashed by Fourth of July partiers

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KANSAS CITY, Mo -- With every big bang, there must be a reaction.

City employees in Kansas City spent Thursday working feverishly, cleaning up public parks that were trashed by people setting off Fourth of July fireworks the night before. Many of the city's 220 parks were seen littered in debris, piece of burned-out fireworks and discarded food and beer containers.

When the party crowd went home Wednesday, in many cases, they left their trash everywhere around Kansas City's parks, and someone had to clean it up. Employees from the city's departments of sanitation and parks and recreation patrolled park grounds with trash bags in hand, picking up haphazardly disposed garbage.

Popular parks such as Brookside, Gillham, Penn Valley and Columbus were found littered with rubbish. Many trash cans were seen overflowing, and sanitation workers were hitting as many locations as they could.

"We're seeing a lot of debris," Dan Wetzel, KCMO Parks Superintendent, told FOX4.

Wetzel supervises crews of workers and volunteers who spent Thursday afternoon collecting trash bags and other garbage leftover from various impromptu fireworks parties.

Wetzel said it's an annual problem, finding the parks trashed after Independence Day, and the messiest problem is never confined to one location. Instead, it changes from year to year.

"We do go out to some of these areas and put up signs that say 'No Fireworks.' I don't know if the signs really help or not," Wetzel said Thursday.

Columbus Square Park, which sits in Kansas City's historic north end, was one of the worst spots FOX4's cameras found. The park's trash cans were overflowing, and the park's grounds were strewn with burned up firecrackers, rockets and firework fountain devices.

Donna Kelly, who has called that area her home for 19 years, said over the years, the mess has gotten better, but she knows when she and other neighbors collaborate to clean up the park, the party crowd won't be there to help.

"They don't understand somebody's got to pick up that trash. If you don't, it's going to blow through the neighborhood. That makes the neighborhood look like trash. More trash, get more trash," Kelly said.

The cleanup can be expensive, too. Wetzel said when holiday cleanup takes his parks workers from their routine maintenance tasks, his department's budget suffers. On Thursday, 60 of Wetzel's workers were assigned to park cleanup, and each time they're needed for a full day, Wetzel said it costs his department $30,000.

"When people see all the volunteers who are out picking up and the things we do that maybe people think twice about leaving things in the park, and not only what it does visually, but how much work it takes to pick that up," Wetzel said.

Kansas City's Department of Sanitation also hurts when the fireworks messes pile up. John Baccala, a spokesperson with the Department of Neighborhoods and Housing, told FOX4 trash collection was already a day behind due to the Independence Day break when trash pickup took a break. Now, those workers are forced to stop and clean up after the partiers in the park.

Wetzel said most of the city's parks were cleaned up, or at least, inspected Thursday. If the one near your home is still a mess, please drop FOX4's Sean McDowell a message via his Facebook page here. He'll be glad to look into the situation.

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