Hundreds of tons of garbage have been cleared from the roadsides of Perry County in the last two decades. In that time, our local leaders, along with the backing of the PRIDE organization and hundreds of volunteers, have taken the initiative in removing illegal dumps and clearing roadside litter.
Despite all of that work, however, in some ways it seems we’re right back where we started. According to one compilation of data on roadside litter, the American State Litter Scorecard, Kentucky in 2011 was the worst offender in the nation.
A 2009 study from the non-profit organization Keep America Beautiful showed that while the prevalence of littering nationwide had decreased by 2 percent each year since the 1990s, taxpayers and businesses were still footing the bill for litter removal to the tune of nearly $11.5 billion. Local and state government agencies picked up approximately $2.5 million of that total. That’s a lot of money that could be used for something else.
Additionally, litter can harm water quality and lower property values, and in our view here in Eastern Kentucky, negatively affect economic development.
There remains an ongoing discussion here in Perry County about how best to move forward in the wake of a significant decline in the local coal industry and 14 percent unemployment. In short, we need to attract new business interests to our county. That sort of work is going on, but any effort to bring new talent and people here is only hindered when they visit our region and the roadsides are strewn with garbage.
We’re fortunate in Perry County to live and work in a region abound with natural beauty and resources. And yet, if the condition of some of our roadsides is any indication, we don’t much care for any of that.
We like to think better than that, however. We like to think the trash resting in roadside ditches or on shoulders, or flowing down Troublesome Creek or the North Fork of the Kentucky River following a heavy rain, isn’t an issue so pervasive that it can’t be solved. It’s simply an issue of behavior. Truly, how hard is it to hold on to that fast food bag or Styrofoam cup for a few more minutes to ensure it makes it to a garbage can rather than the roadside?
April is Spring PRIDE Cleanup month. Once again, officials are urging local volunteers to hit the roadsides and help beautify our region. It’s an effort sorely needed, though the sad fact is that it shouldn’t be. We look at our roadsides in Eastern Kentucky and think we can do better. It is incumbent upon all of us to lead by example, and this spring as a flock of volunteers fan out to help clean our county, let’s all do our part and help them keep it that way.
And for those of you looking to volunteer with PRIDE this year, you can call Rosa Couch at 439-0149 in the county, or Tammi Gorman in the city of Hazard at 436-3161. Buckhorn residents can call Mayor Veda Wooton at 398-7000, while resident of Vicco can call City Hall at 476-2412. The Spring Cleanup will be held this weekend, April 13-14, with drop off sites at the Perry County garage in Christopher from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., and at the Krypton drop site as well.
— The Hazard Herald