Group is fighting litter and raising awareness in county
BY PATTI SELLS | News-Telegram Feature Writer
Mar. 13, 2007 - Well, they aren’t Woodsy Owls, nor are they law enforcement officers cracking down on litterbugs who mess with Texas – what they are, however, is a group of concerned county residents taking action against the environmental hazards of pollution.
�It�s ugly, it�s a health hazard and it�s against the law,� emphasized Wyvonne McDaniel, chairperson of the Hopkins County Beautification Program. �We are concerned about our environment and the litter that is found in our creeks, along side of our county roads and state highways.�
According to McDaniel, walking the country roads near her home seven miles north of town it became evident that people were not being responsible with their trash and, perhaps, laws were not being enforced.
�I would pick it up and the next day there more would be,� McDaniel explained. �People throw it out as fast as you can pick it up.�
The fine for littering can be up to $500 for a first offense. Repeat the offense and you could face up to $2000 and 180 days in jail. Everything from cigarette butts to gum and even an apple core is considered litter.
�This is a beautiful area, and we want to keep it that way for our children and grandchildren,� she said. �But it will take everyone doing their part.�
Realizing the dilemma, she enlisted the aide of other concerned citizens, as well as help from County Judge Cletis Millsap and the Commissioners’ Court.
The mission and the goal of the Hopkins County Beautification Program is to educate the citizens of Hopkins County on keeping trash picked up on county roads and obeying the environmental laws, according to McDaniel.
�Through education in our schools, community meetings and the support� of Hopkins County Commissioners Court, as well as the citizens of Hopkins County, we can accomplish these goals,� she said.
Focusing on 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, McDaniel said they have had a great response from students at Miller Grove, Como-Pickton, Saltillo and North Hopkins schools.
�I was very impressed,� she said. �We had their attention for a solid hour. They asked really good questions and seemed genuinely interested in the problem.�
Helping to create an awareness and participation in the clean up and beautification project are County Extension Agent, Larry Spradlin, and Environmental Officer, Jerry Pierce, who go into the schools with McDaniel to present the one hour program. They are also hoping to speak to club, groups and civic organizations as well.
�We are having meetings in all precincts of the county to educate citizens about our environment and how it affects our well-being,� McDaniel explained.�
The program discusses everything from solvents that seep into the soil and pollute ground water, to the longevity of styrofoam materiels and the disposal of tires.
�Tires are the worst,� she said. �Most people don�t know that when you buy your tires� you also pay a disposal fee. You can take those old tires back to where you bought them. They are responsible for proper disposal. �
As for old metal debris, McDaniel said good money can be made for those who take their scrap metal to a nearby recycling center in Commerce.
�Recycling is a very good idea but it seems like no one does it around here,� McDaniel said. �There is no place to take things.�
McDaniel said all property owners, renters and individuals should take pride in keeping there land and the land around them picked up.
�If everybody would just do their part it would be so much easier,� she said. �We can make it happen if everyone would just take charge of what is theirs. This is something everyone can do, and should do.�
The Hopkins County Beautification Program will work in conjunction with the City of Sulphur Springs on its annual Spring Clean-Up Day coming up in April.