Lately, there has been a lot of talk about upgrading and beautifying the gateways into our fine city. Lately? How about for nearly two decades. There are many tax-paying residents who feel this task is futile despite the hard work and good intentions of Mayor pro tem Mitch Colvin and the Gateways Committee. At this speed, progress may take another two decades. But, you know what? That may not be a bad thing. If shiny, new, attractive and well-groomed gateways were to materialize tomorrow it would equate to “putting lipstick on a pig” unless we address other related issues.
If you haven’t noticed, we have a serious litter problem here in Fayetteville and Cumberland County. Actually, I would say the problem is more of an epidemic. Cumberland County resident Tony Long stated it best when he called into WFNC’s morning talk show last week saying the amount of trash and litter on our community’s streets was disgusting, embarrassing and inexcusable. Many people agree. I agree.
It is commendable that the City has reinstated more litter patrols, however, this is typical governmental posturing where leaders treat the symptoms of a problem rather than the cause. So, what is the cause (of litter) you may ask? Well, in this writer's opinion there are several reasons for this trash epidemic:
Fayetteville’s current physical appearance does not inspire a sense of accomplishment or pride in our community. It does, however, nurture and cultivate a poor perception of our community.
Solving the litter problem is a low or no priority.
There is no enforcement of litter ordinances.
There is no public awareness of local litter ordinances and, what I feel is the most important reason for the problem: There is no city/countywide beautification awareness program.
In my opinion, addressing the litter problem, enforcing the anti-litter ordinances and instituting a “Keep Fayetteville/Cumberland County Clean and Green” campaign should all be included into the gateways development initiative. Otherwise, we will only be spending taxpayers’ money creating a false façade. I agree with those who say that our elected officials collectively do not have the political will to address the gateways development issues.
Property owners and businesses along the effected corridors look at the overall appearance of the community and ask, “Why should we be the ones to conform? What is our incentive?” However, if their compliance and cooperation was part of an overall city/countywide beautification initiative they may be more willing to be a part of this progress.
Political will? Really? It shouldn’t take political will to take pride in what your city and county looks like. It shouldn’t take political will to enforce ordinances or institute a countywide beautification program residents and businesses alike can take pride in.
In the past 14 years I have ridden my motorcycle over 80,000 miles from Fayetteville to Maine, Montana to Key West, Fla. I have cruised through thousands of cities, towns, villages and boroughs. It always fascinated me that as soon as I entered into a community, regardless of its size, I could tell immediately how much pride the citizens took in their community. I saw many clean streets, manicured medians, trees, shrubs and lawns, all well maintained with attractive trash receptacles conveniently located and signs. Welcome to Springfield, Ill. Where it’s clean and beautiful! Keep Brookfield, Mass. Clean and Green, Please Don’t Litter — Keep Ashville Clean & Green, Litterbugs Not Welcome, and Do Not Litter $500 Fine, are just a few of them.
Of course, I have also traveled into hundreds of cities with their own versions of Bragg and Eastern Boulevards. The point being, you can tell instantly where a community puts its priorities and how it feels about itself. This pertains to other quality-of-life aspects of the community.
Years ago I remember returning from a business trip in Wichita, Kan., and sharing an impressive observation about art with Deborah Mintz, president of the Fayetteville/Cumberland County Arts Council. I shared with her how impressed I was with the Wichita cultural arts promotion campaign “Art Lives Here.” In Wichita, art did live there! It was everywhere you looked within the city. Paintings and drawings lined the walls of the airport welcoming me to their city. Sculptures of various sizes and pottery pieces were also on display throughout
Sculptures of various sizes and pottery pieces were also on display throughout the terminal. As I left the airport, there was a metal sculpture practically three stories high. And, in downtown Wichita, sculptures adorned street corners and beautiful silk-looking banners promoting art galleries, exhibitions and live theatrical events flanked both sides of the streets. No doubt, they wanted to make a bold statement about quality of life. They did. By the way, the city was spotless. Litter free.
I hope that as we explore what our options are for improving Fayetteville gateways, elected officials and residents work together to recognize and address the litter situation as a real problem. I will close by saying that if you have not driven out into the Cumberland County countryside you should. It’s beautiful. Take River Road or Hwy. 53 or any secondary road out of town. You will see and enjoy some of the most scenic farms with green and rolling landscapes. You will also see the severity of the litter problem. Let’s clean it up. Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.