The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 17, 2013

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Beautification group takes on litter problem with new campaign

PITTSBURG, Kan. — An image is forever burned into my memory from a sunny day a few years ago.

As I drove by a local business, a man leaving the business wadded up a small piece of paper and threw it on the sidewalk. I nearly hit a telephone pole. A grown man. Littering. Who does that?

Evidently, many people do. So many these days that a local, grass-roots nonprofit group kicked off a campaign last week to take on the problem. The group is calling on everyone to help.

“For 15 years, Pittsburg Beautiful has started a lot of projects,” said Linda Walker during her campaign announcement at the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce. “With this, we need the help of everyone in the community, of all of our citizens.”

Pittsburg Beautiful’s projects include paying for and helping to install the welcome signs at the north and south ends of the city, installing pocket gardens on medians on several roadways, planting and maintaining the planters that line Broadway for several blocks, and contributing money and labor for the trail head at the hiking-biking trail at 11th Street and Broadway. Most recently, the group funded the shelter and the restroom-shower building at the RV park north of Four Oaks Golf Course.

But the beauty created by those contributions is lessened, the group says, by the growing mounds of litter.

“Look around,” Walker said. “On streets, parking lots, the (Highway 69) bypass, there is litter everywhere.”

Her group of 17 volunteers decided to tackle the problem with the savvy of a professional public relations firm. Using money they have raised, along with funds given as contributions or awarded as grants, they had a roomful of highly visible materials made.

There are large banners and yard signs, stickers for blue trash cans that are used in the city’s parks, and bright turquoise T-shirts with the group’s logo that members of the committee wear and hand out to key stakeholders, such as city officials who are supporting their efforts. And two billboards were put into place on East and West Fourth Street — two key entry points to the city.

“Attitudes must be changed,” Walker said. “Litter is decreasing our property values by 7 percent, and it affects our quality of life.”

President Jeff Wilbert said the group is going to hit the campaign trail hard in coming weeks. Members plan to involve private and public schools as well as Pittsburg State University. They plan to visit local businesses to gain their support, and will offer stickers for display in business windows to those who keep their parking lots and front sidewalks free of litter.

The group is planning a cleanup on April 13 along both sides of the Highway 69 Bypass at 20th Street. Volunteers from the community are welcome to join beginning at 10 a.m.

And, group members will be visiting with residents about simple ways they can make a difference.

“Carry a trash bag in your car, for example, to dispose of things you might be tempted to throw out the window,” Walker said. “Or take a short walk and clean up the litter along your block.”

Here’s hoping the man I saw is among those the campaign reaches.

FOLLOW ANDRA STEFANONI on Facebook at facebook.com/andrajournalist and on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.

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