Valley neighborhood group wants to curb litter in city limits

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, October 2, 2019

VALLEY — An organizational meeting of the Neighborhood Pride Litter Reduction Program took place Monday evening at the Shawmut Church of the Nazarene.

A crowd of interested citizens was on hand, and they appeared to be supportive of the goal of having their neighborhood more litter-free.

“We do have a problem here in Shawmut,” said one resident. “We have so many fast-food restaurants up on Highway 29 and much of the trash people are throwing away is blowing into our neighborhood.”

Email newsletter signup

The Neighborhood Pride movement is the idea of David Bell, public relations director for the Chambers County School District and a native of the Fairfax community. He told the neighborhood group Monday that his goal was to start in Shawmut and organize Neighborhood Pride groups in Langdale, Fairfax and River View to make Valley and surroundings as litter-free as possible to the Lee County line.

The Valley City Council has endorsed the idea and has agreed to supply trash bags and yellow vests for each Neighborhood Pride group. Council members Jim Clark, Randall Maddux, Marquetta Madden and Jimmy Gilson were present to show their support.

“I want to thank Rev. Tim Campbell and the members of the Shawmut Nazarene Church for allowing us to use this beautiful sanctuary for this presentation,” Bell said. “I also want to thank Mayor Leonard Riley and the city council for their support of what we are trying to do.”

Bell said people who are careless about throwing litter from their cars should take note of a new law that has gone into effect in Alabama this month. Littering has been upgraded from a Class C to a Class D offense. The fine for doing it has been raised from $600 to $1,000.

Those who throw fast food trash out of the window can be susceptible to a $1,000 fine. Law enforcement can track down the violator from their debit card receipt.

Bell explained to the group that each neighborhood will have a committee of at least five members and a committee chairman. They will get their bags and vests from Valley Parks & Recreation Director Laurie Blount at Valley Community Center.

Members of the committee can pick up litter in their neighborhoods while being careful to stay on public land or public rights of way.

Some committee members can serve as “the eyes of the neighborhood.” They can look for litterers, take photos of tag numbers and keep evidence such as receipts of purchases.

“Look for people throwing trash out of their car,” Bell said. “The hard part will be going to court to testify against someone. You will have to say you saw trash being thrown from a vehicle with that tag number. The purpose of this is for people to know they will be prosecuted for throwing litter from their car, and it could cost them $1,000.”

One of the main tasks for the Shawmut committee to do is to keep the well-traveled areas, such as Highway 29, Double Drive and Shawmut Circle as litter-free as possible. Some committee members can adopt the street they live on and pick up litter there.

“We want to start this Neighborhood Pride effort in Shawmut and work our way to the Lee County line,” Bell said. “We are not asking anyone to go onto private property. We want you to stay on the public rights of way.”

“It’s best to stay within three or four feet of the street and not get into people’s yards,” Councilman Randall Maddux said.

Councilman Jimmy Gilson said people have to be careful with what they’re picking up.

“I picked up a sack one time that had some kind of powder in it,” he said. “I turned it over to the police, and they told me it was from a drug lab and could have exploded on me.”

Bell said it is important for the city to make a good first impression on visitors. Litter along the roadsides takes away from that.

“I think that what we are doing could be the start of something special,” Bell said. “Our city has the most available prime real estate of any city our size anywhere. Businesses looking for places to locate are looking at us right now. One thing they will always look at is the cleanliness of the community and the first impression it makes. Volunteers who love this city can help with this with a litter campaign.”

Bell said it’s important at this stage to guard against putting too much responsibility on people.

“It needs to be manageable,” he said. “We aren’t asking people to do too much. We just want them to do what they can. We don’t want them to feel overwhelmed by taking on something more than they can handle.”