Citizens take lead in fight against littering in county

Supervisors Chairman Joe Guthrie and Vice Chairman Charles Bopp hold up a piece of trash that blew into the grill of Guthrie’s car on Route 100 recently. (Mike Williams/The Patriot)

Local citizens, organizations and businesses are joining forces to clean up Pulaski County.

Trash is everywhere it seems. On the sides of roadways, in median strips, parking areas. Just about anywhere you can think of you’ll likely find items like beer cans, fast food wrappers or an assortment of other trash.

At Monday night’s meeting of the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors, Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Griffith reported to the board on his office’s efforts at cleaning up.

“Some board members asked me last month to spearhead some efforts to pick up trash in each district of the county on the side local roads. One piece of trash is too much, but there’s a lot,” said Griffith.

Griffith’s office staff with help from the Adult Drug Court Treatment Team and Pre-Trial Probation Department through New River Community Corrections were able to pick up 67 bags of trash from last month’s meeting of the supervisors to Monday night’s meeting.

Supervisors Chairman Joe Guthrie praised the efforts of Griffith and his group as well as private citizens who have been busy around the county picking up trash.

Guthrie noted he has been picking up trash in an area near his home along Route 100 from around the New River Valley Airport down to Cleburne Wayside.

At one point during his remarks, Guthrie and Vice Chairman Charley Bopp held up a large piece of foam packing material that had blown across the highway near where Guthrie was picking up trash.

“This blew into the grill of my car,” Guthrie told the audience. “It could have just as easily blown into the windshield of my car.

“This didn’t blow out of someone’s vehicle. A lot of the trash I picked up was fast food containers people carelessly threw out of their car. But this was in all probability on a truck headed toward the landfill up Route 100,” Guthrie surmised, noting that some of the worst cases of trash along roadways in Pulaski County can be found along Route 100.

Guthrie told County Administrator Jonathan Sweet that the county needs to work with the New River Resource Authority about the “abundance of trash the NRRA’s trucks are bringing into Pulaski County from other localities because of the landfill and what we can do to eliminate some of this trash.”

Sweet is now one of the county’s representatives on the NRRA board.

 

A Little Wytheville resident mentioned ways of getting the word out to the general public about the trash problem and cleanup efforts. He noted he had seen some people out cleaning along the roadways lately.

Guthrie also held up a beer can he picked up along Route 100.

“Last Sunday I picked up three bags of trash on the median along Route 100. On Monday as I was heading out Route 100 this was lying out in the median. The can was thrown out between Sunday evening and Monday morning.

“My point is you can’t do it (pick up trash) once! It has to be an ongoing effort,” he said.

Assistant County Administrator Anthony Akers told of a cleanup campaign underway in the county now, spearheaded by Iron Heart Winery in Allisonia. Each bag of trash picked up earns a citizen one chance in a raffle which features cash prizes donated by local citizens and businesses. See Iron Heart’s Facebook page for more details.

Akers said there are some people who think that “it’s someone else’s duty to pick up trash” – namely inmates from the New River Valley Regional Jail. Akers explained that since COVID, inmates have not been allowed to take care of a variety of chores they used to handle such as picking up trash. He mentioned, however, that some limited inmate labor may become available around the end of the month.

“The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office picked up 67 bags in four hours. Think about that! And there were other groups out doing the same thing,” Akers said, add, “What we need is for people to stop throwing trash out of their car windows.”

Akers pointed out, too a misperception about law enforcement, that they don’t stop people for littering.

“If they see someone litter, they will arrest them,” he said.

Akers mentioned certain areas where the trash problem is really bad, such as some areas leading to the high school and in certain fast food restaurant areas.

“We spent an hour and a half on the stretch from Walmart to Cougar Trail Road,” he said.

“It takes a whole village to keep our county clean,” Akers said.

Guthrie blamed part of the trashy problem on COVID.

“I think part of this is COVID-related as far as the inmate work crews not being able to work is concerned. It’s also COVID-related due to losing the dining rooms in our fast-food restaurants. People are no longer eating in the restaurants and throwing trash away there. They’re eating in the car and when they’re finished, they’re throwing the trash out the window. Please just take it home and throw it in your trash can so it doesn’t get blown around and scattered along our highways. It looks bad and creates problems for all of us,” he implored.

 

Akers drew chuckles from the audience when he said, “The beer industry must be thriving because we picked up can after can after can.”

He added that the Drug Court participants who picked up trash – all 19 – were very appreciative to do what they did because they believe the county has invested in their lives and they were all very glad to be of help in return.

Ingles District Supervisor Laura Walters noted the Pulaski County Clean Community Council would soon be rolling out an

“Adopt-a-Spot” campaign.

“Individuals, groups, civic organizations and departments can adopt a spot for a year and keep that spot – it can be a road, your neighborhood, anywhere you want to adopt – and we’ll be doing some recognition for that,” Walters said. “We’ll have signs to put up to give your group credit for that, and there will be some financial rewards as well at the end of the year for keeping that spot cleaned. So be on the lookout for details soon,” she said.

Kickoff day for that effort will be Saturday April 10.

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot