UPPER MARLBORO — In an effort to remove litter from the streets and encourage people to take pride in their county, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks launched her County Beautification Initiative on May 1.
“I have heard our residents say how important it is to them to have a county that reflects the pride that they feel in it. Many of them have shared with me their concerns regarding litter and the consistent message they believe it sends,” Alsobrooks said. “They believe there is too much litter, too much debris on our roadways, sidewalks and our properties and I have to tell you I couldn’t agree more.”
Alsobrooks presented the initiative at the Wayne K. Curry County Administration Building with County Council Chair Todd Turner and Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Pete Rahn.
There have been a series of actions that the county has taken on so far to clean up, Alsobrooks said to the crowd, such as the litter blitz the county conducted in the last month. as part of the a litter blitz, where they have removed 1,000 tons of litter and illegally dumped material from the streets as well as removed 3,500 illicitly posted signs.
“Beautification we know, however, is more than just about litter,” Alsobrooks said as she described how the impact of litter affects all of us from the “unsightly” amount of bulky trash such as mattresses and tires which create a breeding ground for mosquitoes, decreases property values and creates an inaccurate image of the county.
There are several new initiatives that the county executive put forward at the launch to help with this process.
For one thing, the county has invested in 33 solar-powered trash and recycling cans located around the area that will be able to hold more trash and are automated to tell officials when they need to be cleaned out.
Bulky trash collection, which Alsobrooks cited as a big problem around the county, will be improved as new packer trucks will be able to pick up more items, such as washing machines, dryers and furniture, Monday through Friday.
The residential food scrap program will provide a second day of trash collection service by allowing residents to discard food waste on Mondays along with yard waste. This program has already been implemented in 200 homes and will expand to 3,000 homes within the next year.
With these projects also comes law enforcement. Surveillance cameras will be strategically placed around the county to catch people that throw litter. Additionally, during the recent legislative session, county officials were able to get legislation passed that will allow the county to enforce stricter punishments for illegal dumping of bulky items.
Along with it also comes education with the establishment of the County Cadet Cleanup Program where 15 to 20 litter prevention specialist interns from county high schools will be educating students at summer camps and partnering with schools, nonprofits and faith-based organizations to complete county beautification projects.
“Each of us has a role in beautifying our communities as the county executive said,” said Turner.
“I say we all have a role in this process whether a county agency, an employee, me as an elected official, you as a resident, we all can work together and make a difference and that’s why we’re here this morning.”
As the people on the front lines of cleaning up litter around the county, MDOT maintenance workers, who attended the meeting to speak to residents individually about the issue, said that trash is a large problem throughout the county.
“Unfortunately we have folks that just don’t care about the environment. In certain areas, there is a lot of litter, and in certain areas, there is very little litter,” said Basil Shackelford. “We also have problems with bulk trash, discarded furniture, discarded appliances.”
The maintenance workers do everything from cleaning up trash on the roadsides, removing litter and removing bulky trash as well as filling potholes, cutting grass and removing snow, said Lorenzo Simms.
A major problem they have found is that construction workers end up dumping leftover materials in illegal areas in addition to everyday people who litter. These things lead to mosquitoes, rodents and stagnant water that are unhealthy.
Despite the problems, Simms and Shackelford both said that they enjoy their jobs and are confident that this county beautification initiative will raise awareness of the widespread problem.
“It makes people aware that there is a problem, even people that are tossing the litter out and even the folks that are putting the bulky and discarded items on the side of the roadway,” said Shackelford. “It makes people aware that now you’re going to be watched, you’re going to be reported.”
Residents were also hopeful that this new initiative could serve as a catalyst for change. Andrew Carter spoke to the group as part of the presentation and said that he is happy to see everyone have pride in the county and added that “no one will respect our neighborhoods until we respect ourselves.”
Charles Pate, 80, said he has been out with the Hillcrest Heights Civic Association helping to clean up for the past two months. They picked up trash and took down signs, and he has been active in his neighborhood with the effort. He said he is “very much encouraged” by the new initiative.
“Like the county executive said, take pride in your community,” said Harryette Irving who lives in District Heights. She said in her city, maintenance comes to clean up, but the citizens need to help out as well as there is often trash in front of houses and in the streets.
“It’s like if you see a mess in your house, you clean it up. I’m glad to see that the county is doing that and especially the signs that people post…the county is a beautiful county, it really is. So as we grow, I hope we maintain and share the beauty of this county”