Where did all the toys go? City clarifies parks policy

Charlie Dorr Mini Park.

A Berkeleyside reader — a parent of a toddler who lives across the street from the Charlie Dorr Mini Park on Acton — was surprised to find the other day that the toys which her child played with when they visited had been “removed, Grinch-style, and stacked up for recycling”.

A sign reading “do not dump plastic toys here or they will be recycled” had been affixed to the park sign and tacked up on the bulletin board. “There was no signature, no phone number. It was very upsetting as the kids play with these toys every single day, broken or not,” she wrote us.

Berkeleyside contacted the Parks Department to find out whether this was a city action and, perhaps, part of a new parks-wide policy.

Parks Superintendent Sue Ferrera told us that many loose toys get discarded at city parks with the idea that other children can get some use out of them. “We occasionally collect toys that have been discarded, especially those that appear damaged, have sharp edges, have fabric parts (easily contaminated), or are choking hazards. Often, local parents take it upon themselves to remove broken toys from the parks, but Parks staff will do it as needed. We also pick up toys in response to complaints from neighbors or other park users, as the quantity of the toys can build up fast and take away from the safe and enjoyable use of the park,” she said.


Ferrara said this happens at most parks, but especially the tot lots, and has been going on for at least four years — so it’s not a new policy.

After collecting the toys, the city holds on to them for a few days, in case they were left there inadvertently. Residents who would like to collect a toy can call 510-981 6660.

“While we know that kids quickly outgrow perfectly good toys, we’d appreciate it if people did not dump old and broken toys in City parks and instead, used something like Craigslist or Freecycle to share directly with other families,” Ferrara said.

Our Berkeleyside tipster will be disappointed to hear this is the City’s approach. She wrote: “Willard Park in particular is extremely popular with little kids and their parents, due to the abundance of toys that people leave there for all to use. I think this is a particularly nice feature of Berkeley parks, and that it is definitely the wrong way to go about it, to remove toys like this.”