Annual or Perennial?

If a job never ends, is it an annual event?

Saturday, I was a small part of a massive cleanup effort along the Occoquan River. It’s an annual event spanning the last 24 years and many groups partner together to make it successful. Some groups, like Friends of the Occoquan, (FOTO) have been working this cleanup effort for many years.

PWTSC, are relative newcomers with three years participation in the annual cleanup of the Occoquan event. Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition is very active building a network of trails throughout Prince William County. Members are also concerned with the environment and often do cleanups in conjunction with trails. This was my third year volunteering on behalf of PWTSC.

Hundreds of volunteers, scout groups, environmental groups, ROTC cadets, homeowner associations and individuals all worked together yesterday, cleaning the waterway. They paddled in canoes and rowed in kayaks. They gathered trash and debris into their boats or towed it behind them to shore. Volunteers on land met them and carried the bags to roll off dumpsters or stacked bags in piles for trucks to pick up. Many hours of preparation went into the planning and logistics. People donated food and water for volunteers.

Kelly Jimenez, Outreach and Education Specialist and Adopt-A-Stream Coordinator for Prince William Soil and Water Conservation, was like a general in the field, deploying “troops” to the water or land, sending volunteers upstream or downstream, coordinating the large boat sponsored by Okra’s to pick up large items, tires, lumber, and bags of trash from smaller craft.

So many people, so many resources, so much energy and effort, were all expended to clean the waterway that leads to the Occoquan Reservoir. You can read why this is so important by clicking this link to the Prince William Conservation Alliance. They’ve done an excellent job describing why the Occoquan is so important to over a million people.

Now, I hope this doesn’t sound like a whine or a rant. I read that kind of commentary all the time and think, “Gee, I hope I don’t sound like that!”…but I have to tell you, this whole thing really ticks me off!

Why do we have to do this? I don’t mean, “Why is it necessary we do this?” I mean, why have people been doing these cleanups for 24 years? How is it possible that after 24 years the Occoquan still needs a yearly cleanup? Can it possibly be the same reason the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is still in existence? The CBF has been around for well over 30 years. Billions of dollars and millions of volunteer hours have been spent, but the Bay is in terrible condition.

The same thing runs through my mind when I clean my Adopt a Spot. The same phrase echoes when I work a cleanup in my neighborhood and the same phrase reverberates when I pick up litter in front of my home: “What is wrong with people?”

Why do people litter? What makes anyone believe it is all right to back up to a rail in a commuter parking lot and tip a washing machine over the edge of a hill? Why don’t people who throw trash or cigarette butts out their car window know that is not appropriate? Why don’t people pick waste up after their pets? Why won’t people pick up the free newspapers from their driveway?

Anyone out there, with the answers to these questions, please respond! You can probably make a fortune and certainly save us all a lot of time, money and labor with the solution to these questions.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lauren Jost April 18, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Interesting point, Wanda. So how do you think this can be changed?
Melody Carter April 18, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Most of us don't want those free papers. How do we stop them from coming? Every tme I throw one of them into the recycling bin I think "what a waste of paper".
Lauren Jost April 18, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Melody, Good question. I unfortunately don't have a solution, but at least you can get the Patch newsletter in your email!
Mike James April 18, 2012 at 07:54 PM
I just got through with WaPo on this very issue. There is a number you can call on the ads which will stop them ( WaPo: 202-334-6100). I threatened them with a littering fine if they continued and that did the trick. If your neighbor doesn't want to pick them up ask the neighbor if they will give you permission to call and have the paper stopped at your neighbors house.
Wanda Carter April 19, 2012 at 11:59 AM
This can be changed by stopping the papers coming. Every paper that comes to my driveway I call the place to request a stop. There has been times that I called 3 times about the paper but I do get it stopped. It can also be stopped by a fine imposed on the people that litter our streets with them by VDOT. The county BOS can get the sales flyer's stopped through the Washington post. These are the sales flyer's you used to get in the mail box.


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