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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

In Other Words: Children Shouldn’t Have to Clean Up Your Mess

Weeding the garden.
I visited Colleen Epperson’s environmental science students clean-up day on Sunday at the high school. I thought I would write a piece about a group coming together to perform a community service, but something else happened.

There were three projects: weed and plant in the education rain garden, clean up behind the stadium, and clean up over the hill behind the south end of the football field. Almost forty students, some younger siblings, and a few parents showed up on a blistering hot day.  They were eager to start but they had to listen to instructions first. They collected, trash bags and tools and disappeared to their assigned areas. Their goal is to turn the area into an outdoor science classroom.

I was impressed with the independence and cooperation of everyone. They jumped right into the deep end.

But let me tell you what I saw. Trash. trash. And more trash. Judging by the placement of most of the trash it was thrown over the back edge of the stadium and fence into the honeysuckle.

I place the violators into two categories: visitors and school personnel.

First, the visitors. For the most part, there were cans, bottles, and wrappers, the kinds of things inexperienced or immature or lazy visitors to the stadium tossed. It pretty much landed along what would be the drip line.  When I asked students what they thought about all of the trash they generally responded that they were disappointed and disgusted by so much trash being tossed. They should feel that way. It’s an unpleasant task to clean up someone else’s mess.

Removing a street lamp.

Trash littered along the back of the stadium.

Now, the school. Students removed a street light post. Why was a street light post thrown over into the woods? I saw a chain linked fence folded over and laying on the edge of the hillside. And I saw what look like a few old wooden stadium bench seats. These were not tossed by the casual sports visitor.

And the most environmentally harmful dump was at the south end of the football field. Someone, and I’m sure it wasn’t a casual visitor or a student, swept a significant amount of the rubber pellets that sit under the field over the wall and onto a hillside where those pellets can run off into a nearby stream that runs directly into the Ohio River. It’s going to take a long time and a hundred trash bags or more to dispose of the bulk of that material. And then that area will have to be ameliorated.

Rubber pellet debris. 

The beginning of rubber pellet clean up.
People in their haste or plain laziness or cruelty inadvertently created an environmental problem. And now the children are left to clean it up.

This is not a difficult issue to address. For visitors, the following should be in place:
* Place more trash receptacles throughout the stadium including the stands.
* Place signs throughout the stadium directing visitors where to dispose trash.
* Make periodic announcements to visitors to encourage visitors to keep the area clean.
* Create a video to play on the screen to encourage that.

For school staff and volunteer personnel:
* Everyone should be trained in how to dispose of potentially hazardous materials and trash.
* Staff and volunteer personnel need to respect the area.
* Behave like a responsible role model of an adult or be dismissed.

Because here is the rub, if we want to claim to be a world class institution and city, then we better start behaving like it.

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