SILER CITY — Clad in ultra-reflective vests and furnished with official NCDOT-approved “grabber sticks,” Siler City’s business leaders are out to beautify their town, one piece of trash at a …
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SILER CITY — Clad in ultra-reflective vests and furnished with official NCDOT-approved “grabber sticks,” Siler City’s business leaders are out to beautify their town, one piece of trash at a time.
“You know those little grabber things? Sometimes elderly people use them, or you use them to get things up high,” said Siler City’s Angelynn Fox, laughing. “Well we’ve got those things, and our lovely orange safety vests with the neon reflective stripes, and everybody just kind of puts their orange trash bag in hand and gets to work.”
Fox, owner of the Siler City Pharmacy, is one of several local businesspeople who participates in the town’s Adopt-A-Street program to clean and maintain Siler City roads. As part of the Siler City Merchants Association, Fox — the organization’s president — and the other 33 group members are responsible for cleaning Memorial Drive and Cottage Grove Avenue, both of which the organization adopted in 2014. Last Tuesday, the group collected about eight bags full of trash, but it’s not uncommon for them to walk away with 12 to 15, Fox says.
“And the idea is just to try to dive into really, truly beautifying Siler City,” she said, “and those two roads are incredibly notorious for just being really, really trashy. I know that sounds bad, but it’s true.”
The volunteers find all kinds of garbage — discarded bottles of soda and alcohol, fast food bags, sometimes clothing. But in the last year, the most prolific litter has been discarded or lost masks.
“Masks are the new thing,” Fox said, “so we definitely use the grabbers for those.”
Memorial and Cottage Grove are not the only streets laden with garbage, though. Many across Siler City are beset with litter. That’s why the town first launched its Adopt-A-Street program in about 2007 in partnership with the N.C. Dept. of Transportation.
“It’s to make our town look better, clean it up,” Town Planner Jack Meadows said, “and there’s been quite a few to participate, I would say, in recognition of this need. There’s been a lot of support.”
Adopt-A-Street program members are obligated to clean their sections of road at least quarterly, Fox said, but that’s not frequent enough to keep up with the ever-mounting piles of trash.
“I mean some of our members, like Renee Kennedy and Zoann Adams, they’re always cleaning up,” Fox said, “way more than just quarterly. They’ll be out there, you’ll see them with the orange garbage bags, picking up more often.”
Kennedy — station manager at Siler City’s WNCA radio, where she’s been for almost 40 years — was with the SCMA when it first joined the Adopt-A-Street program. The group’s two streets aren’t long she says, but they’re a bear to keep clean.
“(Memorial) is a short street, very short street, but it has no lights and no houses,” Kennedy said. “So it’s an easy place for people to throw out their garbage ... So we try to get out as much as we can.”
Zoann Adams has been with the Merchants Association since its inception. Besides helping SCMA adopt its two roads, she and her husband Sam have also cared for South 6th Avenue since 2007. Altogether, 13 groups of volunteers make up the town’s Adopt-A-Street program, including Chatham Charter School, the Moose Lodge and Fidelity Bank. But as the Adamses prove, it’s not just organizations that can participate.
“It would be great to see more streets adopted even by individuals,” Kennedy said. “You don’t even have to be a group, you can be just an individual.”
The Town of Siler City lists more than 100 qualifying streets — representing dozens of miles — in Siler City still available for adoption. Details of the town’s Adopt-A-Street program can be found on the Town of Siler City’s website, silercity.org, under the Public Works & Utilities section.
To address litter in areas where groups and individuals have not adopted streets, the town hosts a two-week Spring Litter Sweep every year around Earth Day, which falls on April 22. This year, the Siler City Police Department and Siler City Development Organization were primary sponsors.
“There were over 20 organizations and groups that volunteered and helped pick up certain streets that were identified,” Meadows said. “NCDOT was a partner for that, too, and volunteers went through streets that had a lot of trash on them and, I think, accomplished a lot.”
But quarterly cleanings and big annual sweeps aren’t enough to keep Siler City clean for long, volunteers say.
“I mean, we pick up one day and the next day you can ride through and there’s garbage again,” Kennedy said. “It just gets so bad that it needs picking up more often.”
To affect lasting change, it will take concerted effort from all Siler City residents, according to Fox.
“I hope what these groups are doing will inspire others — not to adopt a street necessarily, although that would be great — but just if you see trash, clean it up,” she said. “Don’t just walk by something that might be on the street, or near your property on the side of the road. It will truly take a citizen effort to keep Siler City clean.”
Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @dldolder.