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Gates County officials support litter cleanup day

GATESVILLE – Most everyone is disgusted to see local roadsides and ditches littered with trash and while there are groups dedicated to the task of cleaning up that debris, there is now additional help on the way.

Plans are coming together for a roadside beautification day on Saturday, April 24 throughout Gates County. Those plans were discussed at a recent meeting of the county’s Board of Commissioners.

There, Commissioner Jonathan Jones said he was approached by a couple of citizens who expressed their concerns about how roadside litter is becoming worse in the county.

Jones noted that crews with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) recently began cleaning litter from local roadways.

“Our local guys are cleaning the first week of every month until July,” Jones said. “They have cleaned US 158 from Tar Heel to Roduco, and NC 37 from Highway 13 to Gates. They’ve hit at least two major roads.”

Meanwhile, there remain a few local groups that remain part of NCDOT’s Adopt A Highway program. Those volunteers pick-up trash from local roadways at certain times of the year.

Jones said his research of the program shows that at one time there were 52 such groups in Gates County, but only 12 are currently listed as active. NCDOT provides the trash bags and then picks up the bags for disposal.

After more discussion about the unsightly amount of trash along county roadways, Jones suggested using the week of Earth Day in April to rally citizens to help tidy up these local roads.

“I’d like to see us promote roadside cleanup,” Jones stated. “We can identify the roads in our [commissioner] districts that need to be cleaned up and then come together to do that.”

He went further to suggest that one Saturday in April be set aside to host a countywide clean up day.

Commission Vice Chairman Jack Owens said despite the best efforts and plans by the local Adopt A Highway groups, the number of volunteers has dwindled over the years.

“I know that to be fact because I’ve been a part of one of those groups,” Owens stressed. “It got down to me and two other gentlemen. That long-term commitment often scares some people away.”

Owens said of those local Adopt A Highway groups that are still active, they need to “continue what they’re doing, but we can promote another day as well.”

In an effort to reward those taking part in a countywide cleanup effort, Owens suggested having the groups, after a morning of picking up trash, to bring their bags to the Gates County Community Center where county officials will host a hamburger and hot dog cookout.

“We can open this up to everybody….individuals, civic groups, youth groups, churches, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts; we can have a big cleanup day and we can celebrate it with a cookout,” Owens said. “If we can get some good publicity out of this, we can do this again not too far in the future where our citizens take ownership in helping to keep our county beautiful without an overall commitment.”

“We need a plan; we need a date,” stated Dr. Althea Riddick, chair of the board. “I support this endeavor; we need to promote this in every way possible in order to make sure this is a countywide effort.”

There was concern about the personal safety of those taking part in the roadside cleanup. Commissioner Ray Freeman, said he would work on that aspect of the cleanup day.

Jones said he got the idea from Tricia Lewis about a general day for roadside cleanup.

“I love living in Gates County. I love the people, the unexpected sightings of wildlife and the gorgeous areas they inhabit here in our county,” Lewis wrote in a letter shared by Jones. “However, our county is plagued with a major problem- roadside litter. My commutes have become unsightly due to the clutter of roadside trash. The trash, the litter seems to be multiplying. My five-year-old son even acknowledged the amount of trash on the roadside during our commute to school one morning.

“I knew something needed to be done, action needed to take place and I was willing to put in the time and effort,” her letter continued. “With Earth Day approaching, I figured it would be a great time for our community to come together and do a roadside litter sweep to restore Gates County’s roadsides.”

Lewis and others have created and joined a Facebook group known as Gates County Community Cleanup. There, county residents will be informed of scheduled cleanups.

“We no longer need to wait for someone else to do the work, we need to be united as a county and work together to make a difference,” Lewis said. “If you would like to help by forming a team or joining a team, please join the Facebook group or contact Commissioner Jonathan Jones via email at jjones@gatescountync.gov or 357-2014.” “Tricia came to me with this idea and I thought it was a great one,” Jones said after the March 17 meeting. “Anything the citizens can do to make our county look better, is great. I am happy to help her with this idea and hope citizens, civic groups, churches and friends will come together on April 24.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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