04/18/04 — Volunteers rid roadways of other people's messes

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Volunteers rid roadways of other people's messes

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on April 18, 2004 2:02 AM

Just in time for vacation season, Wayne County has shed more than five tons of unsightly weight.

More than 150 people volunteered Saturday for the annual Wayne County Litter Sweep along Goldsboro and county roadways. Many Adopt-A-Highway groups also cleaned their stretches of road.

The total trash tally was 407 bags, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation.

"It feels like it's been a success," County Manager Lee Smith said Saturday afternoon. "We have had good awareness and participation among our elected officials, the Adopt-A-Highway groups and the public."

The real victory, though, would be getting people not to litter in the first place, he added. "Everybody complains about it, but are they doing anything about it?"

Some people were doing their best to clean up other people's messes.

Marian Johnson, a county EMS employee, was among a group tending to the side of Royall Avenue around 9 a.m.

"We're finding beer bottles, crack pipes, mud flaps, car parts, a little bit of everything," she said.

"It's all your average fast-food stuff," chimed in Jeff Merritt, a tech sergeant at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. "It's your (convenience) store wrappers, KFC bags, McDonald's french fry containers, McDonald's wrappers. Litterers like McDonald's."

The county ought to enact a fee on fast-food restaurants, Merritt said. That money could be used to help clean up the mess.

A short distance away, Simonne Cato, the director of Keep Wayne County Beautiful, was taking a hands-on approach, pulling up debris from along the railroad tracks.

We are making some progress to being a cleaner county, she said. The "Adopt-A-Highway" program is active here and those roads tend to be well-patrolled.

Much of our litter doesn't come from people tossing things out their windows but is due instead to careless truck drivers, she added. Some surveys have estimated that half of litter is blown off the back of trucks.

The food bags, drink bottles and other things purposely tossed by motorists tend to be in pockets around stopsigns and stoplights, she said.

The junior Sunday School class from Victory Free Will Baptist Church was working along Tommy's Road at 9:30 a.m.

One of the adult chaperones, Donna Strickland, had a nice surprise when she started work -- a $1 bill. "I didn't expect to get paid today, but I did," she said with a laugh.

All the kids had been on the other side of the road, added Sharon McGary, "but when they saw that dollar, they all switched over to her side."

That group picked up an unopened can of Busch beer, a potted flower, unopened mail and a six-foot section of new pipe insulation, among other debris.

Mrs. McGary's daughter, Angie, and two other kids from the class were down the road ahead of the adults.

What had they found?

"Beer bottles, broken glass, Easter baskets ƒ" Steven King started.

The girls burst out laughing. "You didn't find but one Easter basket."

"One Easter basket," he corrected. "Chip bags, McDonald's bags, straws, broken glass, cigarettes, a lot of cigarettes."

Had they ever littered themselves?

"Gum," Bethany Whaley said, followed by the others also adding their confessions.

Seen any gum?

"No, but if there's any out here, it's probably stuck to the bottom of our shoes," Steven King said. "Oh, wait, here's a piece."

"OOOH, put that down!" Miss Whaley exclaimed as he dropped the wad in the garbage bag.

Would they litter in the future?

No, Miss McGary quickly said. "Then other people would have to pick our trash up. That's not right."

Losing weight is only part of the battle, they said -- the real trick is keeping it off. Sounds like Wayne County made some progress Saturday on both fronts.