Letter to the Editor – Let’s Take Pride in our Community

The Enterprise Mountaineer – January 5, 2020

I have a question for Haywood County residents and readers of The Mountaineer. Does it bother you that our beautiful mountains have such a voluminous amount of litter lining our roadsides? It bothers me, and if you truly care about this place we are lucky enough to call home, it should bother you as well.

There is a stretch of a state road going up to my neighborhood about a half mile in length that I travel nearly every day. Last week I got tired of looking at the roadside litter there,  so I donned a pair of work gloves, grabbed some garbage bags, and went to work picking up the litter.

 What did I find? Beer cans. Beer bottles. Styrofoam trays. Plastic cups. Plastic bags. Cigarette boxes. Cans of chewing tobacco. Discarded bags of fast food leftovers.Old auto parts. By the time I finished digging through tall grass and briars, walking down the mountain road on one side, and back up the other side, I had filled 5 large trash bags, probably at least 120 pounds of garbage total.  This accumulation all the result of irresponsible decisions made by  inconsiderate people.

After taking this garbage to the dump,  I had mixed emotions. Yes, I got a degree of satisfaction doing a good deed by cleaning up the community,  and no doubt the roadside looked a lot better.  Yet as I drove back home from the garbage recycling center seeing more and more of the same litter on other nearby roads,   I asked myself some questions.  Is there anyone else around here seeing what I’m seeing? If they are, is this status quo acceptable to them?  Are people here really that apathetic?

To my pleasant surprise,  the next day I saw a man walking  down Old Balsam Road picking up trash. I stopped to thank him for what he was doing.  He was a local who said that he and another friend would go out on occasion and clean up the public roadway. Not because he had to,  but because like me he cared about his community and was tired of seeing the litter everywhere.

So to answer my questions,  in the midst of the apathy,  yes there ARE people that care about where they live, and there are people willing to step up and take a little extra initiative in keeping their neck of the woods clean.

My challenge to resident readers for the new year is two-fold.  First, take the time to consider just how poorly the accumulation of junk and litter along our roadsides reflects upon the community. What does it say about the people who live here? And secondly,  if you do have an extra couple of hours of free time,  consider getting out to a roadside nearby and picking up some litter.
Haywood County will be the better for it, and so will you.

Erich Overhultz
Waynesville, NC