Cathy Horn started Keep Hyde Park Beautiful in May of 2017. Since then it has become one of Hyde Park’s most visible groups, working with Hyde Park Main Streets, The Neponset River Watershed Association, Keep Massachusetts Beautiful and others, taking the lead or adding strength. She is a bit shy and surprisingly soft spoken, and a testament to how one person can make a difference.
How long have you lived in Hyde Park, and what do you like most about our community?
My husband and I bought our house here about 15 years ago. We chose Hyde Park because we wanted to be on a commuter rail line into Back Bay Station, and Hyde Park was the most (or only) affordable option. I love it here! It feels like a small town, but it’s only 15 minutes away from the city center (by train). I think Hyde Park is an undiscovered gem. There’s so much I’ve come to appreciate about the community - it’s diversity, all the green space and parks, the history, the beautiful old houses. I’ve also met a great group of people who are committed to Hyde Park and who volunteer their time and effort to make it a great place. Being a part of that network really makes this feel like home.
Was there a seminal moment when you realized that you wanted to start Keep Hyde Park Beautiful? Or was it an evolution, the result of an inevitable progression?
It was definitely an evolution that was a result of a series of seminal moments. It started when I began noticing a lot of litter around Hyde Park. (I swear it wasn’t like this when I moved here 15 years ago.) Once I noticed it, I couldn’t un-notice it! It was everywhere. It really started gnawing at me, so much so that my husband and I talked about moving out of the area. Problem is, the litter issue isn’t just in Hyde Park; it’s everywhere now. We are surrounded by trash, and that’s not the way I want to live. I think I deserve better. I think this community deserves better. I think the Earth that sustains us deserves better. I decided I didn’t want to sit around and complain any longer. I’ve spent too much of my life being passive. I decided to do something...anything...to try to make a difference. I wrote letters to Mayor Walsh and Councilor McCarthy, I researched the issue and gave speeches about it to my Toastmasters group, I joined the Hyde Park Main Streets board and worked with former Executive Director Emily Patrick on a couple of initiatives. The turning point came a few years ago when I started a litter patrol group in my neighborhood, the Wakefield-Washington section of Hyde Park. We now have a small group that meets regularly to clean up our immediate neighborhood. There was an unintended outcome to the litter patrol group: it created a sense of community and friendships developed. To be honest, that’s why I decided to start Keep Hyde Park Beautiful, to extend the benefits derived from my neighborhood litter patrol group to all of Hyde Park.
How did the councilor and the mayor respond?
I sent my letter to the Mayor first and never heard back. I sent the same letter to Tim McCarthy and he got back to me within a day with a very thoughtful and supportive response. I haven’t spoken to him about it since, but I’m hopeful that he will be a good ally in our future efforts. One person who has been tremendously helpful is Bryan Flynn from the mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services. He’s my go-to guy! Sorry, Bryan!
What are your immediate goals for Keep Hyde Park Beautiful? Your long term goals?
I would like Keep Hyde Park Beautiful to become more than a group; I would like it to be part of a movement that inspires people to do what they can to make our community a beautiful place to live, work, study and play. I see the beauty as being both literal (as in how the community looks) and also figurative (neighbors helping neighbors, and working together to foster a sense of community and community pride; celebrating everything that is special about Hyde Park.) When we appreciate the good, the good appreciates!
The KHPB team also has tangible goals in mind...lots of them. We’ve talked about starting a sponsor-a-spot program to beautify pocket parks and street median planting beds (similar to the program they have in Dedham). We’re discussing a partnership with Southwest Boston CDC to create an anti-littering campaign that will speak to the wide demographic within Hyde Park. We’d also like to identify a few beautification projects and get them “shovel ready” so we can apply for funding through various grant programs. As a community I would love for us to have a list of projects that are planned, vetted, and ready to go. This past year has been frustrating; certain grant opportunities have come to our attention and we haven’t been able to find a single project that was fleshed out enough to qualify. Another goal is to get more young people involved by partnering with area schools and youth groups.
Do you have a favorite event? What was your most successful event this past year? Your biggest disappointment, event or otherwise?
I don’t really have a favorite, I think all of our events have been successful in some way. Every time we see a new face at one of our events, I consider it a success because it’s validation that the group’s mission is resonating with people. It also means we’re building our network and our sense of community by meeting like-minded people. Our mission is to empower people to make Hyde Park a cleaner, greener, more beautiful place and each one of our events provides that opportunity. That makes me happy.
There are a couple initiatives I’m especially proud of. One is the monthly Humans of Hyde Park series. We shine a spotlight on people who are taking action to keep our community clean, green, and beautiful. We’ve had a lot of fun identifying people to feature, interviewing them and sharing their stories with the community. I’m also proud of the 150 ways you can help keep Hyde Park beautiful list we created in honor of Hyde Park’s 150th anniversary. It wasn’t easy to come up with 150 ideas, but we did it and I’m really happy with the result!
I do have a few disappointments. The first is the grant issue, and the fact that we don’t have a list of projects ready for funding. I hate leaving money on the table, when there are clearly so many needs in our community. I think all of Hyde Park’s community groups and organizations should be working together to create a running list of projects, so that we’re all ready to jump on grant opportunities when they arise.
Another disappointment is what I would describe as “cleanup fatigue.” It’s depressing to clean up an area and then go back soon after and see it filled with trash again. It makes it hard to stay motivated and to motivate others. We need to do more than the occasional cleanup event. We need more education around this issue, stiffer penalties for littering, and enforcement of those penalties. Oh, and many more trash receptacles on the streets, at bus stops, train stations, and especially in our parks! I’m tired of hearing that this is not a priority. Judging by the number of posts and comments on social media, it IS a priority to so many of us who live here!
Could Keep Hyde Park Beautiful install trash cans and keep them emptied? And if you could, would you?
I think we could apply for a grant to buy trash cans. As a volunteer group, it shouldn’t be up to us to empty them and I wouldn’t want it to be. We’re not Boston Department of Public Works. They really need to be maintained by DPW, DCR, or whomever manages the property they’re on. As a group we’ve had to be mindful of getting involved in projects that are someone else’s responsibility. We’ve been approached before with certain ideas that sound great, but then we realize someone is already getting paid to do these things, so, the question is, why aren’t they? That’s not a rhetorical question, I actually want to know. If it’s a question of funding, then maybe we can help out. If there are other issues involved, we’d love to help brainstorm and implement solutions. If it’s just mismanagement or laziness, then that’s another story. In terms of the trash can issue, what I’ve heard is that these agencies don’t have the manpower or funding to maintain and empty the cans, and they are afraid that trash cans will encourage dumping from those in neighboring towns, like Milton, that are charged for trash removal and don’t want to pay for it.
How is Keep Hyde Park Beautiful funded?
We’re funded entirely through donations, which are tax deductible when made through our fiscal sponsor, Keep Massachusetts Beautiful. Hyde Park Main Streets also provides financial support for certain projects and events that are focused on the business district.
Funding comes in different forms, not just in monetary donations. We’ve been lucky enough to receive donations of goods (like plants/flowers, tools, gift cards, and items to sell at our yard sale) and services (with local businesses offering their time, trucks and power tools to help us move heavy items and do yard work/landscaping projects.) Southwest Boston CDC has also been generous enough to let us borrow their tools on multiple occasions. It really is a group effort, and we appreciate the support we’ve received from everyone!
How does one join and what is required or expected of members? What are the benefits?
Everyone is already a member, they just don’t know it! Haha! No, we don’t have a formalized membership program yet. We have a core group of about 15 dedicated volunteers who meet monthly and take the lead on events and projects. Anyone who is interested in being a member of that planning group and has time to commit to working on projects can contact me for more information. If you only have time to volunteer for the occasional event, that’s fine, too! Join our mailing list, Facebook or Instagram page, or check our website for details on upcoming events and initiatives.
There are benefits to getting involved on any level. First, you’re giving back to your community and taking an active role in creating the type of community you want to live in. That’s powerful, and I know from experience it can transform the way you feel about Hyde Park. Another benefit is that Keep Hyde Park Beautiful is a positive, feel good group and we have a lot of fun doing what we do.
Finally, is there anything you’d like to add?
I recently came across a quote that has stuck with me: “In a world where there is so much to be done, I felt strongly impressed that there must be something for me to do.” (Dorothea Dix)
There is so much to be done in Hyde Park, and if we don’t do it, who will? Think about how great our community, our country, our world could be if everyone took an active role in making it so. In a nutshell, find something that needs to be done and be the one to do it. It may be something tiny, and that’s okay. Small, incremental actions add up.
If you want to get involved on a larger level, there are so many great organizations to be a part of here. If Keep Hyde Park Beautiful isn’t your thing, check out Hyde Park Main Streets, Southwest Boston CDC, Friends of the Hyde Park Library, the Hyde Park Food Pantry, the Hyde Park Historical Society...the list goes on and on. As Mr. Roger’s once said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Let’s all be the helpers!
Nominate yourself or someone in the community for a future Humans of Hyde Park story; nominees can remain anonymous in the story or use their first name only if they prefer: https://goo.gl/forms/qgTj1Rh8t2bSbh973.
Quiana first came to Boston as a college student, graduating from Wellesley College in 2002 and returned in 2016 to live in Hyde Park with her husband and two children.