The Clean Community Partnership was a great idea.
Through its efforts the 3rd Saturday Cleanup was born and in the cleanup’s first seven months, 133 volunteers picked up more than 11,000 pounds of trash and placed filled nearly 300 bags to be properly disposed of. It was litter thrown from cars, blown from the back of pickup trucks and left behind. But the COVID-19 pandemic hit and cleanup efforts waned, not for the lack of effort of a few steady volunteers. Now city leaders are trying to reorganize the effort so no one person or organization has the burden of keeping the monthly pickup going.
“The Third Saturday cleanup kind of fell out of popularity,” Alexander City Mayor Woody Baird said. “It seems we don’t have that many people showing up anymore. We were thinking if we could get enough people together we could reinitiate it to get more people involved and get more people out.”
Volunteers from Lake Martin Resource Association such as John Thompson and the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce have been active in the 3rd Saturday cleanup.
“It was created with one thing in mind, to do something about the litter in the community,” Thompson said. “We first met in 2018, we didn’t have an agenda, we just wanted to talk about the litter issue. We put together Jacob (Meacham’s) idea of a regular pickup and Third Saturday came about. We met regardless unless it was pouring down rain.
“It worked and we were able to do some good. COVID comes along and it pretty much took us out of it.”
Baird sees the restarting of the program as a chance to get the monkey from always falling on the back of the same people and organizations.
“We are hoping to get churches, Boy Scouts and others to help,” Baird said. “We want to have a really massive turnout on the next 3rd Saturday cleanup. Going forward, we have got to figure out how to have a really good turnout.”
The idea is simple. An organization takes on the task for the cleanup one month and hands it off to another organization for the next month.
Baird and Thompson agree getting more organizations and more people involved will help with Alexander City’s litter problem.
“Getting the community involved is the answer,” Thompson said. “You get the same folks over and over picking up. It gets old.”
With limited volunteers often the same main streets and areas are getting picked up. The hope is by getting more organizations involved those volunteers will also take more responsibility and pride in the city and their neighborhoods picking up litter all the time.
It’s not that the area has a huge issue with litter, it’s confined to certain areas but the same volunteers are the ones picking it up.
“We want to have a bigger turnout and a wider area covered,” Baird said. “We need to get this Third Saturday Cleanup cranked back up and have a broader based effect especially around Alexander City especially with the number of people coming in right now.”
Meacham and Henry Foy want to see property and business owners take some responsibility too. In some cases it’s loose garbage not in a bag blowing from an open dumpster or garbage can. Other incidents of littering are occurring as employees return from lunch break and the litter escapes the vehicle.
“It’s personal responsibility for their property that is contributing to making it look like it’s a larger problem,” Meacham said. “I think a lot of it could be nipped if there are tighter controls on how these people are managing their own properties.”
Russell Lands CEO Tom Lamberth said he participates in many cleanups and not just on the lake. Lamberth said what he has noticed is a lack of residents from Alexander City volunteering to clean up in their own neighborhoods. He is pleased to see Baird getting involved but said an effort to build community pride is also needed.
“Who wants to live in a trash dump environment?” Lamberth said. “I don’t care how much money you make, if you only make minimum wage you don’t have to live in a trash dump environment.”
Baird said this past weekend visitors to the Lake Martin Invitational band competition and to the MOPAR reunion at the Wellborn Musclecar Museum noticed how clean parts of the town were.
“Thank goodness they didn’t go to some places,” Baird said.
Baird agrees citizens need to take it upon themselves to do something to clean up.
“Look around your area and pick up and try to get some of these groups involved,” Baird said. “We need more people involved. We get more people involved and there is an education process, we can try to keep it from happening. If we can keep it in the cars we will do something.”
Until the public does more to keep litter from hitting the streets, leaders will keep the 3rd Saturday Cleanup going. Thompson and LMRA have agreed to organize the Oct. 16 cleanup. The Alexander City Chamber of Commerce has volunteered to organize the 3rd Saturday cleanup in November. Now they challenge other organizations and churches to help organize cleanups. As always the 3rd Saturday Cleanups start at 8:30 a.m. at the Broad Street Plaza on the 3rd Saturday of each month where supplies are issued and if needed suggestions on where to pick up litter in Alexander City.