bengarrett

Saying they’re “fed up” with litter on Scott County’s roadsides, a few Scott Countians have mobilized over the past several weeks to clean up the nasty ditch-lines and rights-of-way. A few more have taken that cue to get involved themselves, and the entire movement has coincided with the annual county-wide clean-up event, which saw more than 500 volunteers pick up more than 1,000 bags of trash across the county.

Stacey Kidd, executive director of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce, has been the most vocal advocate of cleaning up local roadsides. Kidd and her daughters have made trash detail a weekly chore on Kingtown Road in their neighborhood. Proving that a positive example can affect change, Kidd tells the story of two children in her neighborhood who, on the first day, stood and watched as Kidd and her brood picked up trash. By the second day, the kids were pitching in to help and, by the third day, Kidd drove home from work to find that the kids had beaten her to the task.

It is that sort of attitude that will clean up Scott County. Sheriff Ronnie Phillips announced last week that his department is recommitting to the inmate litter patrol, using jail manpower to pick up the nastiest streets in Scott County. Others have modeled their own family initiatives after Kidd’s efforts. And dozens of Scott Countians have responded to the Chamber of Commerce’s challenge for 500 local residents to commit to pick up one grocery bag of trash a month in an effort to make the roadways cleaner.

It’s quite a grassroots success story since Kidd’s initial plea to her board of directors a month ago to help clean up Scott County. In fact, a drive to Old Hwy. 27 in Robbins reveals that a stretch of roadway more than a few described as one of the trashiest in Scott County no longer has trash-filled ditchlines. Instead, bright orange garbage bags line the side of the road between New River and Mountain View, waiting to be picked up and hauled off to the landfill.

Unfortunately, along-side those bright orange trash bags is new trash, already tossed aside by motorists just days after efforts were made to clean up the roadway.

It is that scene that underscores the long-term commitment that will have to be made if Scott County is to be cleaned up and kept clean. Sadly, there are those among us who just don’t care enough to avoid trashing up the very community they call home. It is bad enough to flippantly toss a water bottle or hamburger wrapper out of the car with little regard for the landscape or the environment. But it takes a real low-life to see those unmistakable trash bags representing the effort that has gone into cleaning up an area and blatantly toss new trash out the window anyway. These are people who do not care about their community, and they don't care about those who are sacrificing their personal time to clean up the community.

That is why, as Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals said recently, cleaning up Scott County cannot be a chore that encompasses one day a year. It has to be a constant commitment by Scott County’s residents and caretakers. The Lowe family of Low Gap, profiled in the April 3 issue of the Independent Herald, did not stop when they first cleaned up Low Gap Road more than a decade ago. Instead, they make regular efforts to keep the road clean, and that is why Low Gap stands apart as one of Scott County’s cleanest rural roads.

Any community activist with any experience at all will tell you that the No. 1 key to orchestrating change is to “drown out” the naysayers. In other words, there will always be those with negative opinions and their minds cannot be changed. So, community activists say, the key is to shout positive opinions from the rooftops so loudly that the negative opinions cannot be heard.

Cleaning up Scott County requires taking a page from the community activists’ playbook, in a round-about way. Some of our fellow residents will always be too lazy to carry their trash home instead of throwing it out the window. There’s nothing we can do about that. But if we pick up their trash behind them, we’re effectively drowning out their laziness by overwhelming it with the new image that Scott County cares about its image and will not allow its roadsides to be trashed up.

■ Ben Garrett is Independent Herald editor. Contact him at bgarrett@ihoneida.com.