Picking up the pink pieces after downtown’s best party

Street sweepers and men with rakes and grabbers swept into Spanish Town on Sunday morning to clean up the piles of crushed beads, beer cans, plastic cups and other trash left by the tens of thousands who attended Baton Rouge’s largest Mardi Gras parade.

Residents decompressed and exhaled, recovering from the massive Spanish Town Parade that rolled through their small downtown neighborhood Saturday. Some ventured outside early Sunday morning to clear their yards, pull beads out of bushes and trees, and pick up empty beer cans and bottles.

In the streets, including Spanish Town Road and North Street, some people picked through the beads Sunday morning to find discards to donate to charity or sell.

Work crews, including work-release inmates from East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, slowly made their way one block at a time through the neighborhood that residents said was easier to clean than in years past.

“It’s nothing like it was last year,” said Becki Biggar, who lives on North Street near Interstate 110, adding this was the easiest cleanup she’s had in her seven years of living at that location. “Last year was bad.”

Ann Woods, who lives a few houses down from the Spanish Town Market, agreed with Biggar’s assessment.

“It was a real pretty day. There was a lot of people out and I think a lot of the throws were caught instead of hitting the ground,” she said.

Woods’ yard came through relatively unscathed because her family had put up a temporary fence to keep unwanted guests out during their large house party.

She said what debris did make it into her yard was cleaned up by one of the visitors when he left Sunday morning.

Residents received a flyer from the Historic Spanish Town Civic Association, asking them to clean what they could in their own yards and push everything else onto the roads where the street sweepers would take care of the rest.

David Guillory, director of the City-Parish Department of Public Works, said the street sweepers can take care of the beads, but larger items such as empty beer containers, plastic bags and leftover food have to be placed in large piles and picked up with other equipment.

“Most of the residents are really good at helping out,” he said Sunday.

In 2013, the city-parish agency changed its cleanup policy following citizen complaints the previous year. The agency added more workers and used rakes and grabbers to pick up beads, and did not just rely on the street sweepers.

Guillory said the agency stuck with those tactics this year, but also dropped off three large garbage bins Friday along the parade route with the intent of having workers use them Sunday for waste disposal.

Paradegoers filled them up Saturday, which Guillory said workers did not expect, but admitted it helped with the cleanup because trash in the bins was not trash on the ground.

Guillory said he could not say how much trash had been picked up because workers were still processing it, but said they generally collect enough that if it were all laid out next to each other, it would stretch about 100 to 200 yards long.

He said the Spanish Town Parade along with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March are the most labor-intensive as far as post-parade cleanup operations go.

By about 1 p.m. Sunday, workers had cleaned Spanish Town Road up to Seventh Street. Guillory said workers hoped to finish cleanup operations Sunday, but they may have to stop at nightfall and continue Monday morning.

Another tweak to aid in the cleanup this year was that people were not allowed to park on Spanish Town Road on Sunday. Parked cars would cover trash, preventing the street sweepers from catching all the beads, plastic bags, beer cans and whatever else people left on the street.

“I think people attempt to be as respectable as they can,” said Darryl Gissel, a board member in the Historic Spanish Town Civic Association, as he was hard at work Sunday morning cleaning some property on Spanish Town Road, across from Sixth Street.

Pam Bounds does not share his sentiments.

Bounds, 51, lives with her mother on Spanish Town Road and they do not partake in the partying because of their religion, Seventh-day Adventists.

But she said that does not stop people from trampling on their grass or leaving trash in their yard, so they are forced to put up a makeshift fence each year before the parade.

“It’s really sad that people can leave after the parade and not pick up their stuff,” she said. “We don’t look forward to the parade.”