Let’s keep our public spaces beautiful places

By Terasa M. Lott, Water Resources Agent, Clemson Extension

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but some areas of the Pee Dee have a serious litter problem. Not a day goes by that I don’t see at least one piece of trash where it doesn’t belong. In fact, seeing only one piece would be quite remarkable. From aluminum cans in storm drains to garbage in ditches to plastic bags in fields, there is litter all over the place – and it sends the message that we don’t care.

As I sat down to write this column, I found some interesting research that supports the importance of beauty in a community. The study found that perceived beauty or aesthetic character influences community satisfaction. Aren’t we fortunate the Pee Dee is chock-full of beautiful places such as Williamson Park in Darlington, Kalmia Gardens of Coker College in Hartsville, and Lynches River County Park in Coward? Beauty is not limited to just parks, gardens, and nature preserves. It can be found in a small landscaped median, a tree lined road, or even a pretty planting in a parking lot.

It only takes one piece of litter to turn a beautiful place into an ugly place. But the ugly appearance is only the tip of the iceberg. Unsuspecting animals may be sickened from ingesting trash, mistaking it for a food item. Discarded fishing line may entangle a bird, making it unable to move and obtain food. Drainage infrastructure may become clogged leading to flooding and hazardous driving conditions. Litter can even impact our water quality by serving as a breeding ground for bacteria. Then there is the high cost of cleaning it up.

It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, a native or a transplant, working or retired. You can make a difference in the community by participating in the 16th annual Great American Cleanup. Keep America Beautiful’s Great American Cleanup is the country’s largest community improvement program that kicks of each spring and engages more than 4 million volunteers in excess of 20,000 communities nationwide. Local activities will be coordinated by Keep Darlington County Beautiful and Keep Florence Beautiful. For information about Darlington cleanup events, contact Paula Newton at 843-398-4810. Information about Florence cleanup activities can be found on the group’s website at www.keepflorencebeautiful.org/cleanup.

Even if you’re not up for spending a little of your free time picking up someone else’s mess, you can still help thanks to a new smartphone app. It’s called the PalmettoPride Trash Tracker and it enables you to report litterbugs, illegal dumpsites, and areas that need attention in all 46 counties of the state. Don’t have a smartphone? Report what you see to the Litter Busters Hotline 24 hours a day at 877-7LITTER. By taking action against litter, we can keep our public spaces beautiful places.

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.

Author: Duane Childers

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