NEW PORT RICHEY — Jessica Jones kneeled down on both knees and shuffled forward to squint at the wall. With a roller brush in both hands, she carefully applied a second cream-colored coat of paint to a low wall at the Gene Sarazen River Overlook.
Jessica 15, was one of several teens and members of the New Port Richey Public Library’s Youth Offering Library Opinions club to spend last Tuesday morning during spring break cleaning, painting and weeding at the downtown bridge-side landmark that overlooks the Pithlachascotee River.
The teens, with help from Youth Services Librarian Jessica Meredith, Administrative Assistant Kayla Kuni and a couple adult volunteers, filled up nearly ten black garbage bags with weeds and debris from the central, soil-filled area inside the overlook. They also put a fresh coat of paint on the interior walls.
“We saw this area during the Cotee River Clean Up last year and decided to help,” Jessica said. “It was really gross.”
The teens picked up soda cans, plastic bottles, cigarette butts and more in and around the overlook. They hope that by sprucing it up, people will be less likely to vandalize it or sleep in it at night.
Last October, city council rejected proposed double gate facing Main Street and more fencing to enclose the overlook tower, which would have cost $12,500.
Instead, the council opted to beef up security with more floodlights at the park and posting of eight more signs to alert people that the park closes at sunset and assist police officers in patrolling the park.
While they were painting and cleaning, Councilman Jeff Starkey drove by and saw the teens working in the overlook. He dropped in to thank them for their help.
“Thank you guys so much,” Starkey said. “We need anything that will keep the cigarette butts and homeless folks out.”
Meredith, who oversaw the project and other YOLO community projects, said they partnered with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to clean and maintain it. A garden was suggested for the central area but would require regular and consistent maintenance so more than likely cement blocks will be put in place.
The library is considering building a mobile library at the overlook for people to take and leave books without having to check them out through the library.
“It might help kids who can’t come to the library because their parents owe money,” Meredith said. “We hope to give them something to do other than vandalism.”
Whatever the group ends up doing, they hope to coincide it with Earth Day next month on Tuesday, April 22.
“Today it’s just about the cleanup,” Meredith said.
You can reach Daylina at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 815-1067. Follow her on Twitter at @DaylinaMiller.