Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring Cleaning: It Doesn't Look Like It Will Happen in Wichita Falls

Trash along a trail near Lake Wichita
I don't know if you have been out and about the city very much, but if you have, you can't help but notice the large amount of trash in all parts of town. I took the photo to the left with my cell phone just walking down a trail near Lake Wichita while I was walking. Although it isn't the best photo, as it was taken with my cell phone, it is easy to see there are several pieces of trash in a small area. This is hardly the worst of the trash around town.

I have people tell me all of the time that the litter situation can't be helped because of the wind. I agree the wind exacerbates the situation as any unsecured trash is going to blow around. However, if people took more care to create less trash and to better dispose of that trash they do create, our community would look much better.

Some years ago the Clean City Commission used to oversee a community-wide cleanup in early April. It was a pretty big deal. In a purge of commissions, the Clean City Commission got the ax. Justifiably so, as the cleanup was about the only worthwhile thing the commission did (obviously, this is my own somewhat jaded opinion.) The citywide cleanup was turned over to a small non-profit, Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful. This non-profit was held together by a very small group of volunteers. They did continue to sponsor the cleanup for a few years, but with dwindling volunteer resources, the amount of time and effort put into the cleanup declined. Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful has since gone belly up. I checked with the city and there is no plan to conduct a citywide cleanup this year.

The city did add some money to the budget this year for additional litter pickup along Kell Blvd, which seems to be the main thoroughfare where Wichitans unload their trash. However, Southwest Parkway is a dump and the access road along Kell also looks trashy. The open field at the intersection of Hwy 287 and Kell is an eyesore. And there are other areas just as bad--these are just ones I happen to pass often, so are especially irritating to me.

I know there are volunteer groups who periodically clean up some areas. I am involved with some of them. The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalist chapter cleans up Plum Lake quarterly and Sikes Lake and the feeder drainage ditch annually. The Red River Sierra Club group does a regular pick up of a 2-mile stretch of Sisk Road as part of the Adopt-a-Highway program--there are many other organizations that are involved in this program as well.

It is obvious this is not enough. There is no way the city is going to pay for more litter pickup--they hue and cry from the addition of the monies for Kell Blvd makes it pretty clear that our citizenry is not interested in paying for this service. By the same token, I don't think any of us like to see our community looking unkempt, and it's an embarrassment when "company" comes. Our city has been doing a good job of selling Wichita Falls for conferences and events and we need to make a good impression.

So where am I going with this? We need some mechanism to create enthusiasm for a general cleanup. It would be nice if it was informal--in other words, people would just take personal responsibility to cleanup around their homes, businesses would clean up their areas and groups would each take an area and clean it up. But I know that's unlikely to work without a group of people organizing it.

What do you think? Is there a group of citizens who would roll up their sleeves in the next few weeks to get the ball rolling??? I'll bet the amount of work would be minimal if there was a dozen people to take it on. Mostly publicity and some coordination.


  1. The trashing of the Falls has been preying on my mind as well. First it was the areas around the Walmarts. All three of 'em. When I switched over to a driving job that keeps me out and about in all neighborhoods, I began noticing the litter scattered and scattering everywhere.

    So, yes, I agree we have a problem, and we need to fix it. I'm good for periodic "collection" labor as I pick up trash when and where I can. Was thinking, too, we might get businesses adjoining the Hike and Bike Trail to "Adopt a Path" portions of the trail.

  2. Jim, thanks for commenting. I was trying to put together a Friends of the Parks and Trails initiative at one time, but set it to the side to focus on the Lake Wichita Study Committee--that will require a huge public commitment to pull off. But the city does have a way for community groups to volunteer to cleanup parks and waterways--just contact Parks and Recreation for information.