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Metra Cleans Up Trash Piles After Neighbor Complains On Twitter, But Littering Still A Big Problem Near Hermosa Park

Within 90 minutes of the post about a filthy area behind a Metra fence, the agency dispatched crews and cleaned it up.

Some of the remaining trash on the other side of the fence next to Ken-Well Park on April 11, 2019. One of the items appears to be a car seat.
Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
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HERMOSA — When the snow melted in Hermosa, neighbors were greeted with an unwelcome sight: piles and piles of trash alongside the train tracks near Ken Well Park.

Around noon on Thursday, a neighbor posted photos of the unsightly piles on Twitter, all trapped behind a fence that cuts through the neighborhood alongside the Metra tracks.

“Many years of filthy trash, and volunteers [can’t] get to it because of safety fence. An eyesore, and health hazard in #hermosachi,” she wrote.

The woman tagged Metra in the post and said the photo had been taken near the Milwaukee District North line near the viaducts between Diversey and Belmont avenues.

Metra was immediately on it.

By 1 p.m., Metra responded to her tweet saying crews were being dispatched to clean the area.

“Thank you @Metra. This situation isn’t new, but the level of filth along the sidewalk is now unbearable,” she responded. “This part of the line cuts right through our neighborhood and adjoins a playground, Ken Well Park.”

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
Signs at Ken-Well Park asking people to keep the park clean.

KenWell Park has a few different signs telling people not to litter and to clean up after themselves. And while the park is pretty tidy, garbage is usually found on the other side of the fence that keeps people from easily walking up to the Metra train tracks.

“We use our track crews to do the clean up during the spring,” said Meg Reile, a Metra spokesperson. “They’re usually transitioning from winter duties to the summer construction projects right now. So during that gap in the spring we us them to try to address things like trash.”

The best way to address the trash on the other side of the fence, Reile said, is to reach out to Metra directly. Because of the miles and miles of track Metra monitors and maintains in and around Chicago, the rail company doesn’t have the capacity to have crews out dedicated to just cleaning up trash.

“So making someone aware that there’s a problem, that’s really the best thing. It’s also incumbent, if you see someone littering report them or ask them to stop. It’s illegal to litter,” Reile said. “And please report it to us and don’t cross over the fence to clean it up yourself. You will be fined and it’s dangerous. Tagging it on social media works and notifying your alderman and notifying your park. The message will get to us.”

Later in the afternoon, after crews had tidied up the area, Meagan Pérez was playing with her 2-year-old son in the playground at Ken Well Park at 2945 N. Kenosha Ave.

“I feel like it’s always just been like this. I’ve lived here for 22 years, I used to come here when I was little and it’s always kind of been that way. I don’t think it’s ever been super clean,” Pérez said. “Every now they cleaned it but it still looks dirty. That’s why when I bring my son here I don’t let him go that way.”

While a significant amount of the garbage had been taken away by Thursday afternoon, east of the fence near the playground there was still a few stray beer bottles, soda cans and food wrappers on the ground on the other side of the fence, as well as a few plastic bags caught on the fencing and what appeared to be a car seat.

“I notice there’s usually a lot of trash after the snow melts, once it gets warm in the spring,” Maria Szostak said.

She’s lived in the neighborhood for the past three years and was walking her 9-year-old German Shepard Oro Thursday afternoon. The park itself was pretty tidy, but because the Metra tracks next to the park are on an incline the trash on the other side of the fence is noticeable from the neighborhood.

“Some neighbors are really good about cleaning up the area, but in the park by the fence it’s definitely an issue. It’s a park. Kids play here, so that trash isn’t very pleasant,” she said.

Friends of the Parks, Kelvyn Park Advisory Council and the Chicago Park District are hosting an Earth Day park clean up at Ken Well Park on April 27. The event begins at 9 a.m. and to register visit this link.

The advisory council for Ken Well Park was not immediately available for interview on Thursday.

“Littering is an ongoing struggle in the city and it’s not just us trying to deal with it,” Reile said. “Some of the trash in that photo, that’s not stuff that was picked up on the wind. This is people deliberately dumping stuff over the fence onto Metra property.”

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