Okeeheelee Park Cleanup: West Palm Beach, FL
The West Palm Beach Sathya Sai Center (WPBSC) has adopted the clean-up of the Okeeheelee Park as a monthly service project since January 2019. This 1,700-acre waterside park, one of the largest parks in South Florida, includes an equestrian center, bike paths, fitness trails, ball fields, tennis courts, soccer fields, a nature center, a number of pavilions, a golf course, and a BMX track. The northern part of the park also contains expansive water-skiing lakes.
Once a month, ten to fifteen Center members break up into groups and walk around the lakes, picking up plastic bags, water bottles, soda cans, remains of fishing nets and gears, as well as clean up plastic and metal trash around the pavilions. Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) children pick up small pieces of waste such candy wrappers, lollipop sticks, small chips bags, plastic straws and juice pouches to ensure these small pieces do not become choking hazards for little animals.
Through this activity, the Center members have developed a greater awareness of the sad degradation that humans have inflicted on the natural environment. It has also invoked a deep feeling of spiritual connection with Nature and strengthened their resolve to live a more environmentally conscious life.
The Center’s future plans, pending approval from the Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation Department, include a public outreach campaign. This will involve installing signs around pavilions to gently remind visitors to respect the environment, setting up poster boards at the Nature Center to educate visitors, and producing a video for public display with motivational messages and other similar volunteer opportunities for visitors.
The project has left a deep imprint on the minds of the SSE children as evidenced by their reflections.
Bhavesh Sai Reddy, 15, shared, “Sathya Sai Baba has said, “To protect Nature, man has to make use of it within limits. When man tampers with Nature recklessly, it reacts adversely, and trouble arises.” I have realized that in order for humans to thrive, Nature around us should also thrive.”
Bhargav Potineni, 15, remarked, “Our relationship with Mother Nature is always mutual. When we avoid the pollution of natural resources like air, water and soil, Mother Nature responds by providing fresh air, pure drinking water and organic food, and consequently, a healthy life for humans and wildlife.”
Neil Jeedigunta,14, reflected “I realize now that it is everyone’s responsibility, including myself, to keep our community parks clean. This simple 2-hour activity of a walk in the park, picking up a few bagfuls of trash, can be very satisfying because you know you are doing your part in saving Planet Earth.”
“It allowed me to do some good for the neighborhood and feel a sense of accomplishment,” said Rishi Jadala, 13.
Naina Jeedigunta, 12, commented “Baba has stressed the importance of cleanliness. So we should keep everything clean from our bedrooms to the neighborhood park.”
Vaikuntha Sai, 12 shared “What strikes me the most is everyone came together in unity to achieve the goal of cleaning the park and in the process, purified ourselves within.”
“Cleaning up a park is good because it makes the Earth clean, so everyone can have fun at the park. And because you can help animals and plants. Also, you can make friends with other people,” declared Asha Veera Allady, 8.