The ignored places

Published 7:15 pm Thursday, January 10, 2019

We drive by them every day — city street corners, ditches on remote stretches of country roads. There’s nothing particularly special about them. We pass by the drainage ponds and culverts, streams and creeks that give big-picture beauty. But take a look at the details, and you might notice something that takes away from the beauty of Beaufort County.

Trash. Garbage. Matter out of place. Whatever you want to call it, it shouldn’t be there, and it’s an eyesore. Not only does it detract from the natural beauty of a place, it can be also be harmful to wildlife and other organisms that call those places home.

Next Saturday morning, Jan. 19, the City of Washington is hosting an Adopt-A-Wetland Cleanup Day. From 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., volunteers will work along the shoreline and in boats and kayaks to help fish trash from Washington’s man-made wetlands along the boardwalk by the Estuarium. This is a great initiative on the part of the city, which should be continued on a regular basis and possibly expanded.

Years ago, area residents would turn out in droves to support river cleanups and community efforts of the sort. In recent times, however, participation in such efforts has fallen.

Throughout the county, and North Carolina, Adopt A Highway signs line countless roads both in town and in the country. Adopted by civic groups, youth groups and families in memory of a loved one, the program encourages each person to take some responsibility for keeping the state beautiful.

Perhaps a program encouraging and somehow incentivizing residents to help pick up trash on their own streets or road frontage could benefit the area as a whole. Maybe it doesn’t even need to be a solution that comes from municipal or county government.

Of course, it would also help if all people thought about where to put trash when driving in the car. A plastic grocery bag hanging from the gearshift makes an excellent and inexpensive solution to finding a place to put your trash. When you get home, it’s easy to tie it in a knot and put it in the bin. The only difference is you might have to use your right hand to throw the trash in the bag, instead of your left to throw it out the window. Of course, friendly encouragement of this practice by law enforcement wouldn’t hurt either.

These are two simple suggestions that can make a big difference. When people show up to help clean up their neighborhoods, such community efforts can do wonders for a place’s appearance and natural health. Coupled with changes in attitudes and practices of throwing trash out of car windows, we could be in the running for “most beautiful place” in the state, and might find a renewed sense of beauty in our ignored places.