• Story and photos by John McGary

Earth Day a walk in the park for volunteers

Magistrate William Downey (Dist. 5) spent last Saturday morning in Big Spring Park looking for butts. Cigarette butts, that is. Downey found and bagged 274 of them in the front area of the park at the rescheduled Earth Day event May 11. “They were everywhere. Everywhere from the swing sets to the play areas to the pavilion, the parking lot … just scattered about,” he said. As a child growing up in Versailles, Downey went to the Sunshine afterschool and summer programs in the park. “So I kind of grew up here, and then have just been trying to assist where I can, following Christa (Stoudt, who operates the Voices of Versailles Facebook page) and Laura’s (Versailles City Council Member Laura Dake) lead,” Downey said. He said while clean-up efforts by the Friends of Big Spring Park group he joined have made a difference, the park still fights a “bad narrative” about some of the goings-on there. “Laura and I both said … that we did not find any drug paraphernalia, and that seems to be a common narrative – that the park is riddled with that type of trash. We didn’t find any of that,” Downey said. Other volunteers filled bags with litter discarded by people who didn’t bother taking it to one of the many trash cans scattered around the park, while one family spent the morning picking up trash around the county, Dake said. “We also had a couple of guys weeding and planting the new plants for the Monarch (butterfly) way station in the back of the park… and three people clipping the honeysuckle,” Dake said. “We’ve done clean-ups the last three years. Every year, we’ve done a couple of clean-ups per year, I think,” Dake said, before Stoudt added that she believed Saturday’s event was the 13th in recent years. Dake pointed to the fence between the park and the property where The Woodford Inn sits. “A year ago, you could not see The Woodford Inn from here. So all this has been cleaned out up to about maybe halfway down. That was done by four (parks employees)…” she said. If given approval by the Versailles-Woodford County Parks Board, Dake intends to ask the City of Versailles and Woodford Fiscal Court for money to hire a landscape architecture firm to produce a sweeping plan for the 17-acre park. Just then, volunteer Lillie Cox called out from a nearby pavilion, ‘Hey John, we’ve got some customers painting rocks!’ Cox, Bessie Bain and Becky Dunning showed young children how to paint what Cox called “happy rocks.” After they were painted, the kids could hide them in the park, take them home for Mother’s Day – or even take them on vacation. “We hope to do a Facebook address so that they send it back and say, ‘We found it in the Dominican Republic,’ or wherever, and learn about Big Spring Park,” Cox said. The pavilion also featured a tapestry throw dotted with Woodford County landmarks. Proceeds of the $50 pieces of art, which are on sale at several businesses around the county, will benefit the Lions Club’s vision program. A few feet away, the youngsters were joined by Annabel Nagle and Hannah Adams, sophomores at Woodford County High School, who’d come to help the children paint. “We just heard about this event a few weeks ago, and thought it’d be cool to come help people,” Annabel said. Asked what Earth Day meant to her, Hannah had a simple reply. “It’s where we live, so we’ve got to take care of it,” she said.

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