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Roger Barbee: Blight on the valley

By Roger Barbee

We are blessed in the valley with much natural beauty. From where I am sitting, Short Mountain, covered in snow, appears to curve west as it passes Mt. Jackson and converge with Great North Mountain, as if to form a bowl of beauty that is full of small hills, cleared land dotted with homes, and some of the world's best grass for feeding cattle, according to my friend John.

But, the valley also has much man-made beauty, such as scenic roads like Route 211, Route 42, South Middle Road, and portions of The Pike. The next time you are driving north on The Pike and top Rude's Hill south of Mt. Jackson at Rosen's Tire Store, look east and marvel at the roll of the land as it becomes the foot of Short Mountain. Or, when driving south from Strasburg, look closely at the land as you pass Fisher's Hill and wonder at that cut made mostly by hand. If you have a free afternoon, cruise long the ridge on Route 42 between Orkney Grade and Columbia Furnace, but go slowly to fully see the sweep of land on both sides of the ridge. And, I've yet to find an unslightly section of Middle Road.

Some weeks ago my friend J.J. mentioned to my wife that a column about litter was needed, and just two weeks ago an irritated reader wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily comparing litter to a blight. J.J. told my wife how he took a casual walk in his Edinburg neighborhood and easily gathered enough metal to cash in for $5, and the unknown letter writer mentioned the amount of trash/blight on Interstate 81 at the Woodstock exit. My Webster's New World dictionary defines blight as "anything that destroys, prevents growth, or causes devaluation." So, any blight is costly.

The trash that blows along I-81 is a result of many factors, but I think most of it is caused by fast-moving travelers. That litter is located on a road many of us do not even want to drive on, much less walk along and pick up trash. However, the Pike and other roads mentioned are, with some precaution, roads that could be made litter-free by the cause - the citizens of the valley. Every piece of paper, plastic, every beer can or bottle, each fast food bag, all those cigarette filters, the bags of trash fallen from trucks, the limbs of bushes and trees not secured - all of it is there along the Pike because we, intentionally or not, put it there.

We are not always good stewards of our beautiful valley. However, we can and should change our ways to keep trash off our roads and help protect our gift. While driving from Woodstock to Edinburg each day, I notice the profusion of bags of trash blown from vehicles as I near Landfill Road from both directions. They are filled with garbage, newspapers, whatever is deemed trash. If each driver secured every load before driving to a landfill, it would keep much litter off our roads. And each smoker should field dress the filtered cigarette and not toss the filter on the ground or pavement. However, my other possible solution is more complex, but if we all chipped in together, we could do it.

We designate a day - "Remove the Blight Day" - and all concerned citizens walk along local streets, the Pike, Route 42, any valley road and pick up litter. I know that traffic is a danger and measures for safety need to be taken. So, what if "Remove the Blight Day" were held on the Saturday morning of the Yard Crawl when traffic is heavy, but much slower than normal along the Pike? I estimate that 14 citizens could clean both shoulders of the Pike between Edinburg and Mt. Jackson if each would cover a mile and pick up litter. Bags filled with litter could be left on the shoulder, securely tied, and a local company or companies could donate a truck and personnel to load them and take them to the landfill. This would, however, take planning, possible safety details by the Sheriff's Office, local police participation, and even the county government and civic groups may feel a need to get involved. It could get complicated with all the different views and possible restrictions, but it still would be possible.

Or, every concerned citizen could just walk along any valley road and pick up litter. After all, it is a blight put there by us.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at redhill@shentel.net.


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