Litter joins death and taxes as inevitable, trio say

Tabitha Edwards picks up litter along Lone Oak Road.
Staff Writer

Death and taxes. Statesman and founding father Benjamin Franklin forever left the world with those things that can't be avoided.

Add litter to the list.

At least according to the people who are charged with picking it up on the main city streets and parks in West Point.

"It's job security ... death, taxes and litter, can't avoid them," said Tabitha Edwards, one of three people on the city's litter patrol, a job Mayor Robbie Robinson calls "one of the most important and under appreciated" in city government.

"Every town has a litter problem. I just thought it was important for the city and the community to do what we can to make it look better. Litter is a pet peeve of mine. I think in some ways it's as important as just about anything we do," Robinson said.

"These guys are champs to me," the mayor added.

Edwards, Kenya Pargo and Herby Pearson take to the streets almost every day picking up the stuff others senselessly discard, everything from fast-food cups and containers to socks, underwear and dirty diapers.

They don't make a fortune and their work can be frustrating. But it also carries with it some rewards, mainly pride.

It's very frustrating sometimes. It's like people don't care at all," said Edwards, who primarily handles Lone Oak, Tibbee, North Division and some other busy roads.

"You can pick up one day and come back a couple of days later and litter will be back. It might not be as nasty as it was, but there is litter," added Edwards, who has been with the city six years.

"I usually can tell the difference when we've been through. Some places are worse than others. Some people just think the city or someone else will get it," added Pearson, who started litter patrol a year ago after the mayor saw him picking up trash on morning walks.

The group sees a generational difference in the litter bugs. And they hope their work eventually makes at least some small difference.

"In New York City, entire city blocks will get out and pick up trash and keep it clean. I'd love to see that here. We get it a little," Pearson said. "Maybe it'll encourage a few ... if they see it clean they'll help keep in clean."

"Older people get it. They don't litter as much and will pick up on their street some. But the young people, the younger generation, they are the ones throwing the junk out," Edwards stated. "I just don't understand it. There's just no respect. Everybody thinks it's somebody else's job or that someone else will do it."

Despite what seems like a never-ending cycle of trash and litter, residents do seem to appreciate the effort.

"You can tell when they've been along here. It looks really good. I've seen them down in the ditch in their boots. It makes me mad to drive back a day or two later and see trash already back out," said Norm Anderson, who drives North Division every week day.

"It's terrible out here. Just really messy people. But when they come through, it looks better for a little while. We appreciate it," added Mary Franklin, who drives Lone Oak daily.

One particularly annoying litter problem comes when people put cans, bottles and other items in the many downtown planters.

"It's just a shame. Those women work hard to make those look good and make downtown look good," Pearson said of the garden club members who maintain the planters.

Despite the frustrations, they understand the value of what they do.

"I do think we make a difference. I don't want to think about what it would be like if we weren't out here," Edwards lamented.

"It helps business. If you have a nice, clean town, that makes an impression on visitors and people who live here. We've lost enough businesses, we can't afford to lose any more," said Pearson, who worked 30 years at Babcock and Wilcox and ran a carpet care business for 27 years.

And despite those varied careers, Pearson loves the one he has now.

"People stop and say thank you, that it looks good. That's what we want," he said.

"It's the best job I've ever had. I work for great people, I get to be outdoors, get to see people, I'm exercising, but I do wish people wouldn't litter."