LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Lansing playgrounds and parks are safer because of Scott and Debby Bates.
The self-described semi-retired Lansing couple have been using metal detectors to find and remove nasty objects such as sharp bottle caps, chewed up beer cans, rusty nails, bullets and metal wires from Lansing’s public play areas.
What began as a coronavirus hobby has morphed into a community service project.
“When we started finding all this junk sticking out of playgrounds while kids were playing, I’m thinking this is not cool,” Scott Bates told the Lansing State Journal. “I don’t like this at all.”
The Bateses said they don’t think the objects are placed in the parks with the intent to hurt children. They figure some of the junk comes from people littering in the parks; the nails and building materials, they surmise, were left behind during construction.
Scott, 63, has been a touring drummer since 1977. He’s a Michigan Country Hall of Fame inductee and currently the drummer for the Brenda Loomis Band. He also works part-time driving special needs students for Dean Transportation. Debby, 60, owns a house cleaning business and writes children’s books. When COVID-19 hit and work stopped, the two figured they needed a hobby. So at the urging of their experienced metal-detecting friend Tom Shivley, the two bought equipment and began hunting.
“It gets us out instead of staying home and watching TV,” Scott Bates said.
Since beginning in June, the Bates have filled two large bins full of hazardous junk. They said they think of their grandkids when they are out cleaning up and were stunned by the recent story where 41 razor blades were found on the equipment at an Eaton Rapids playground.
“That was so terrible” he said. “We live in a sick world.”
Making playgrounds safer isn’t the only benefit of the Bateses’ new hobby. Scott is down 25 pounds and Debby, 20. And not all the stuff they find is gnarly. Debby has found a gold wedding band and bracelet and helped a woman at a campsite find a keepsake silver necklace. Scott is proud of an 1835 silver dime he dug out of the ground at Everett Park.
The addictive activity has even rubbed off on others. Their son and a few neighbors and friends have started metal detecting in hopes of finding treasures and to help in removing the junk.
“We’ve got time. It’s fun, it’s exercise and, at the same time, we look for buried treasure,” Scott Bates said. “We’re hoping to find a good treasure somewhere.”