A council has been criticised for failing to clear rubbish from a park that was left behind by travellers in time for a prestigious visit from Charlie Chaplin’s son.
Visitor Dave Williams said he was ‘ashamed’ that Michael Chaplin had to trudge through bin bags and other waste on his way to unveil a memorial at Black Patch Park in Smethwick – where his famous father is rumoured to have been born.
Mr Chaplin flew in from the south of France and said he was honoured to visit the possible birthplace of his father.
The 69-year-old took the wraps off a new monument honouring the Romany gipsies that lived in the park more than a century ago and their work in preserving the park as open space.
But some believe the visit was marred slightly by the state of the park.
As well as experiencing problems with travellers pitching up and leaving rubbish behind, the park has also become a target for fly-tippers.
Mr Williams, aged 74, of Tower Road, Tividale, who lived near the park growing up, said: “When I heard about Michael Chaplin coming, I wanted to view it. I was really interested and I was thrilled to shake his hand.
“But I was so ashamed that man had come from the south of France and he had to walk though a park that was like a tip. They showed pictures of the time it was a gipsy encampment and it was cleaner then than it is now.
“It is definitely not the image we want to portray. It should have been cleaned up. When I saw him walking down the path I felt ashamed.
“If I had realised it was happening earlier I would have willingly gone down there and cleaned it up. I hope something can be done about it.”
Councillor Maria Crompton, Sandwell Council’s environment boss, said the clean-up was not able to be done in time.
She said: “We are in the process of cleaning up Black Patch after travellers camped on the park a few weeks ago. Most of the litter they left behind has been removed but we still have tonnes of rubble to take away. Unfortunately this could not be done in time for Sunday’s ceremony. Our priority at the time was to block access to other travellers in the area from moving onto the site.”
Simon Baddeley, a founder member of the Friends of Black Patch Park group, said there was a wider issue of people dumping rubbish at the park and said the council faced an impossible task keeping on top of it.
He said: “If they clean it up it will just reappear again. We have to find a way of creating some sort of partnership for the recovery of rubbish and restoring the park.
“It’s extremely challenging for Sandwell in the current environment. I’m not blaming Sandwell Council, they are trying to find ways to do it.
“We’ve done litter picking days now and again but the level and scale of it is too big. There is a terrific amount of waste around the edges of the park.
“Lots of people are interested in our park including Michael Chaplin, who came from the south of France to visit it.
“Michael Chaplin, the son of the greatest comedian came to visit and the connection to the industrial revolution - what a lost opportunity it could be.”
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