Friday, 05 March 2021 19:06

Earth Day cleanup planned in Richmond County

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Employees from von Drehle pick up trash under the bridge at Little Carr Creek on Feb. 25. A countrywide effort is planned for Earth Day. Employees from von Drehle pick up trash under the bridge at Little Carr Creek on Feb. 25. A countrywide effort is planned for Earth Day. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County leaders are encouraging residents to help out in a countywide cleanup next month.


The Earth Day effort — scheduled for 8-11 a.m. Saturday, April 24 — is being spearheaded by Aging Services Director Jacqueline Welch and Solid Waste Manager Bryan Leggett.

Growing up, Welch said she was always taught “don’t be a litterbug,” and tries to instill the same message in her own daughter.

“You’ve got to be responsible … Mother Earth isn’t going to clean up herself, we have to do it,” Welch said. “It’s going to take us teaching our children what to do … to help things change.”

Welch said her agency has worked with Solid Waste Enforcement Officer Allen Hodges to pick up litter in the past, primarily in the East Rockingham area.

The project combines Welch’s event planning with the Solid Waste Department’s knowledge of the problem areas and ongoing clean-up efforts.

While she doesn’t spend much time on social media, Welch said she’s seen the concerns from county residents about the issue and recognized that they want to help, but needed a structured event to get involved.

Volunteers can register at: https://www.richmondnc.com/538/Earth-Day-Community-Clean-Up

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 200 residents had signed up.

The website also has a tab for residents to submit priority areas. On Wednesday, Welch said only two had been named: the overpass at N.C. 177 and U.S. 74 Bypass south of Hamlet; and the stretch of U.S. 1 from Wiregrass Road to Weatherstone north of Rockingham.

Welch said other roads have been added by reviewing social media comments.

She said she wants residents to feel comfortable participating: “If it means you walking out of your house and going down your driveway and 20 feet left and 20 feet right.”

She also suggested residents could go clean up around their local park or around Hitchcock Creek.

A joint meeting was held Feb. 24 between county and municipal leaders to plan the project.

The municipalities, Welch said, will serve as pick-up and drop-off sites for the equipment — including safety vests, bags and gloves — and help keep track of the number of volunteers and amount of garbage collected.

Due to state budget cuts, Welch said the N.C. Department of Transportation isn’t able to provide all the equipment needed, so sponsorships are being sold, as well as event T-shirts.

As of Thursday, $552 of the $2,000 sponsorship goal had been reached.

County Manager Bryan Land told commissioners earlier in the week that Tedder Trash Solutions has offered to drive around and pick up the bags after volunteers are done.

Roadside trash has been a topic of discussion among the Richmond County Board of Commissioners for several years. Land includes pick-up and citation statistics in his monthly report to the board, often referring to the problem as an epidemic.

According to Land, 622 bags and 16 tires were picked up from 20 roads by county staff and NCDOT workers in February, accounting for 6.6 tons of trash — 1.5 tons more and double the number of tires from January. 

The solid waste enforcement officer also investigated three illegal dump sites and issued two citations.

Land added that Leggett has received interest in the Adopt-A-Highway Program, which is sponsored by the state.

Welch said there are around 30 roads that are part of the program.

On Earth Day 2019, Kelly Chandler and her 9-year-old daughter, Kaylynne, walked around the Hitchcock Creek Greenway picking up trash and cigarette butts. Most of what was collected was plastic candy and straw wrappers and Easter grass, presumably from an egg hunt over the weekend.

Several months later, Chandler, founder of Toward Zero Waste Richmond County, and six other volunteers picked up four large bags of trash along Chalk and Freeman Mill roads.

Last week, employees of von Drehle — led by Justin Dawkins, the plant’s operations director and a county commissioner — collected up three pick-up truckloads of trash within a half-mile stretch in Cordova.

The following day, he posted a photo of litter on the roadside near the plant with the caption: “Sadly, we can’t even go 24 hours without someone throwing their fast food bag out in the area that was just cleaned up. They did keep their receipt but threw everything else out.”

Commissioner Toni Maples has also recently been vocal about the issue, encouraging residents to do their parts on Earth Day.

“So many complain about the trash on the side of the road, I am just as upset as many of you are,” Maples posted in the Facebook group What’s Up Richmond County. “I am challenging all families, church groups, school sports teams, clubs, and businesses to put a team/committee together and pick an area(s) that need trash picked up.

“If we all did this then we wouldn’t have trash on the sides of the roads,” Maples continued. “It’s going to be hard to track every person that throws out trash and issue fines. I...want better for our community as I know most of you do. I will no longer contribute to the problem, I will contribute to the solution. Will you?”

NCDOT also recently issued a call for volunteers to clean up roads for Operation Litter Sweep, April 10-24.

Former commissioner and current state Rep. Ben Moss recently co-sponsored a bill that would increase fines for litterbugs.

Welch said the late February meeting also dealt with how to keep efforts going in the future. A poll shows that many volunteers would like to clean up quarterly throughout the year.

The next meeting is 3 p.m. April 7 at the Richmond County Airport.

 

Last modified on Friday, 05 March 2021 19:16