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A couple of years ago when the President was looking around for a Drug Czar and an Education Czar, Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne was looking for a Litter Czar, and he found him in Bobby Hurst.
    Hurst, a Fayetteville business owner and current member of the city council, stepped up to lead the fight against littler in our community through the start-up of Fayetteville Beautiful — a committee of concerned citizens dedicated to encouraging others to take greater responsibility for improving their environment. That’s a job neither Hurst, nor the volunteers who pull on their gloves and grab their trash bags to walk our city roadways, takes lightly.
    Since September 2006, the organization has been taking a hard look at our community, and what they’ve seen hasn’t been pretty. Using the Litter Index, which was created by Keep America Beautiful, Fayetteville’s streets rang in with a 2.95 on the litter scale. Doesn’t sound too bad? Wait, the index goes from one to four, with four being the most littered.
    The organization decided to tackle littler on several fronts — the first being citywide clean-ups, and the second being education aimed at changing personal habits. “We can clean up the roadways, but if people’s behaviors don’t change, then the trash will wind up right back out there again,” explained Hurst. “So we really have to focus on education, because that’s what brings about behavioral change. It has to do with individuals chaning their behaviors..”
    Part of that education is getting people to take ownership of the city. “We believe that if we get rid of the accumulation of litter out there, people are less likely to throw it out again,” he continued. “And the way that works is to involve our citizens. If they don’t feel a sense of ownership, then the litter isn’t going to bother them —  a lot of people take that ‘as long as it’s not on my property’ approach. But if they take a couple of hours of their time to pick up other people’s trash, then they’ve taken ownership.”
    That theory seems to be working. In April 2007, the organization hosted the first citywide cleanup. Ninety-one groups, with more than 1,100 people hit the streets to tackle the litter. Volunteers were to target the trash along the major entranceways into our city. Some volunteers went above and beyond the call of duty, not just picking up the trash along the side of the road, but the trash on the other side of the guard rails along the Martin Luther King Expressway as well. What they found was shocking: stacks of old tires; bags of trash; rusted out bicycles and much more. Working in recently annexed areas of the city, volunteers found illegal dump sites loaded down with old furniture and appliances. In total, they picked up several tons of trash.
    A follow-up clean up in September saw 125 groups and a few more people than the initial group, and they worked just as hard. In total, both cleanups netted 52 tons of trash and covered more than 237 miles of roadway.
    Hurst has equally high expectations for the Spring Pickup, which is scheduled for Saturday, April 19, with the kickoff at 9 a.m. at the entranceway of the Dr. Martin Luther King Freeway and Ramsey Street. The goal of the cleanup is to make sure our city sparkles for the upcoming Dogwood Festival. This will be the only cleanup this year. Hurst explained that people were more excited about the spring cleanup. “It’s that time of the year when people are cleaning up, planting flowers,” he said. “They really are excited about a fresh start.”

     Somelocal residents got a head start on the project, as they gathered on Saturday, April 12 to replant the Hurley pots downtown. The pots, named in honor of former Mayor Bill Hurley, are all spruced up and read to grow thanks to the help of volunteers who didn’t let the torrential rainfall of the weekend damped their enthusiasm. “A lot of people came out to help plant,” said Hurst. “They managed to get 70 pots done despite the rain.” {mosimage}
    Lending a hand to that effort was Chavonne. “Tony really sees this as an important effort,” said Hurley.
Volunteers who want to participate in the cleanup can contact Jerry and Sue Dennis at 425-4353 to sign up, or they can show up at the kickoff. They will be able to pick up their bags, gloves and vests at 12 of the city’s recreation centers the week prior to the event so no one will need to stand in line to get what they need. Hurst said that a number of people pick up their supplies early, and instead of coming to the official kickoff over on Ramsey Street, they go straight to their assigned area and start cleaning up.
    The results of their work brought about a reduction in Fayetteville’s litter index. It has now dropped to 2.4.
For more information about Fayetteville Beautiful or to volunteer, contact the group’s Web site at www.fayettevillebeautiful.com. Remember, it all starts with you.

 

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