Keeping an 87-acre park clean can be a laborious task. In Hunting Park, that job is left to Gerald Willis, an employee of Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Picking up the park’s trash for 23 years, Willis attested to its upkeep.
“It can be a tough job at times. It gets dirty, believe me,” he said.
Willis arrives at the park at 7 a.m on Mondays with his Department of Parks and Recreation truck, fully loaded and ready for the day’s work. Due to limited working hours, he described the beginning of the week as his busiest.
“We don’t work over the weekend, so when we arrive on Monday there is already a whole bunch of trash waiting for us,” Willis said.
His work does not go unnoticed. While jogging through the park, community member John Travia commented on its appearance.
“The park looks nice today. I jog through here all the time and sometimes the amount of trash is remarkable. I couldn’t imagine having to clean this place,” he said.
Willis’ job is not limited to just picking up trash though. Aside from that, he also does some minor landscaping to maintain the park’s greenery.
“We prune hedges, trees, low hanging branches. Anything that looks like it’s dangerous or in the way, I’ll go cut it down so it doesn’t become a problem in the future,” he said.
As the weather warms up, Willis prepared for the park’s busiest season. However, he has limited help until seasonal employment arrives.
“In the summer they’ll hire more people, but for right now it’s just me and my partner. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. I can tell you that, because come April this place will start to get packed,” he said.
Although not a resident of Hunting Park, Willis said he still feels a part of the community.
“I don’t live in this particular area, but I’m glad that by being able to keep it clean others can enjoy what I see every day.”
Catching up with Willis on a mild and sunny February day, he appreciated what was most rewarding about his job.
“I just enjoy working outside man. I mean look at this clear sky, it’s a beautiful day out today,” Willis said. “What can I say? Getting a chance to do something for the community and enjoy this weather. I love it.”