City and County governments battling litter problem
Word on the street is, Lumpkin County roads have a growing litter problem.
Incidentally, there’s also growing number of people who think this trend is concerning for the beauty and prosperity of this community.
“I use to look at the natural beauty of the mountains as I drove home from town, now all I notice is all the litter along the side of the road. It’s a problem,” says local resident Anna Elrod, who admits to moving to North Georgia from Austin, Texas to enjoy a place with “more foliage and a change of seasons.”
During the winter months, this problem is amplified. Since the leaves have fallen and the grass has gone dormant, the road shoulders become more noticeably decorated with all the litter bug leftovers.
Both local governments have been answering the problem the best way they know how: by taking to the streets to clean it up.
Larry Reiter, the Director of Planning and Public Works for the County, explained the County’s litter elimination efforts, “For litter pick up, we have one person, Joe Smith, who is devoted to street clean up, and we use inmates for additional labor. Smith is out cleaning up trash basically on a daily basis. It takes probably an hour to an hour and a half for a four man crew to clean up one mile of road.”
“And there are certain roads you can pick up and then two days later it doesn’t even look like you have been there,” Reiter said.
“On a good case it takes an hour a mile. There are 400 miles of road in Lumpkin County. That’s 400 hours. That’s 20 percent of that one person’s annual hours to just get through all the roads. The best he can do is get all the roads 5 times a year. If that is all he does. And that is not all he does. He still has to cut the grass of the road shoulders, trim trees, and answer calls to pick up things that have been dumped. like old couches.”
It’s much the same story for the City’s road crew. Vince Hunsinger, Street Department Supervisor notes that, “Litter is a year round problem for City Streets and nearby State Roads.”
“In the summertime months, the guys pick it up as they cut the grass. During the winter months, there are guys dedicated to picking trash along all the city streets. We focus on places like Morrison Moore, North Grove Street, East Main, and Wimpy Mill. Wimpy Mill is probably one of the worst places for litter,” Hunsinger says.
Both Hunsinger and Reiter agree that their crew could be doing more important things if people would, “just stop littering.”
IDENTIFYING THE TRASH
“The large majority of the litter being picked up is fast food related,” Reiter says, “People are probably pitching it out of their windows instead of taking it to the nearest trash can at a gas station, or their own house, and there are plenty of trash cans.”
Imogene Wilson, original owner of Jerry’s Superette on Highway 52, who resides in the house right beside the gas station, can vouch that the majority of the litter is fast food.
“Everyday I have to pick up fast food trash in my front yard, and back behind the store is always awful, too” Wilson says.
But Wilson, who is 80 years old, believes that it wasn’t always like this, “I guess people don’t respect other people’s properties and our environment like they used to,” she says.
“It’s true” says Randy James, another local citizen who has invested some of his free time in picking up trash on Black Mountain Road near his place of residence.
“Trash mucks up everything. I like to show people the beauty of North Georgia and it’s hard to do that when there are people who have no respect for all this beauty,” James says. “The litter is a reflection of who we are, and how little time we think we have to take care of things properly. The litter problem and it’s consequences needs to come back to our local consciousness somehow.”
Ultimately, the trashed way our streets look right now, “It’s disgusting, a shame really” Anna Elrod says matter-of-factly, “We got to do something about this.”