Many area residents work to help city in cleanup efforts

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There are people in Augusta who shrug off the messages of the green movement and couldn't care less about Georgia's "Litter. It costs you" marketing campaign.

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Graffiti is marked on a wood fence where state prisoners clean up around an abandoned house near Hopkins Street in Augusta. A 2006 study reported that nearly one-third of Georgia's roadside litter is done deliberately.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Graffiti is marked on a wood fence where state prisoners clean up around an abandoned house near Hopkins Street in Augusta. A 2006 study reported that nearly one-third of Georgia's roadside litter is done deliberately.

They drive to the Augusta Canal or Lake Olmstead and toss in garbage ranging from car tires to washing machines.

They pitch fast food wrappers and cola cans from their cars.

Toni Baker summed up the problem in an e-mail, responding to a request for readers' input by The Augusta Chronicle:

"It seems to me that littering has become a way of life for many, many people. You only have to look at the sides of the roads to know this is true."

Augusta hasn't had a Keep America Beautiful affiliate since 2004, when the Metro Augusta Clean & Beautiful nonprofit was disbanded after funds were allegedly misappropriated. The city's trees and landscaping budget has been static for at least nine years and has had positions frozen.

But some fervent residents are picking up where city workers and inmate crews leave off. They head up neighborhood organizations and promote community standards. They plant gardens on public property. They put on boots and gloves and pull garbage out of murky waters. They pick up trash along roads.

According to a 2006 study commissioned by the state Department of Community Affairs, 66.3 percent of Georgia's roadside litter is the result of negligence, such as unsecured vehicle loads, construction debris carried by wind or trash slipping out of garbage trucks. The remaining 33.7 percent is deliberate.

"If you leave it there, someone else will feel that it's OK," said Sammie Sias, picking up candy wrappers and beer cans near the entrance to Sand Ridge neighborhood in south Augusta, whose neighborhood association he heads. Mr. Sias is among seven people The Chronicle will profile beginning today who are trying, in their own ways, to beautify Augusta.

"Even if you are a knucklehead, it's hard sometimes to throw trash where it's clean," Mr. Sias said.

Staff writer Mike Wynn contributed to this article.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.


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