No one wants to live in a trashy community.
But the way some Richmond County residents act, it would be hard to believe.
You see it every day: fast-food bags and cups strewn throughout parking lots; plastic bottles and foam cups scattered on the roadside; various household items dumped unapologetically in fields or just inside the woodline.
Berry Patch owner and Ellerbe Mayor Lee Berry even once found two pianos discarded on a piece of farmland.
It’s a sore sight for sad eyes.
Late last month, Allison Sweatt — who in 2016 organized a cleanup near the Blewett Falls Dam — posted on Facebook her disgust at witnessing a litterbug in action.
“Literally watched a lady eating in the Ollie’s parking lot throw her trash out the window and look at me like I did something wrong. Ugh!! This is why our world is in the condition it’s in!!”
Sweatt later picked it up and threw it away herself.
Saturday there were several alcoholic beverage bottles — some appeared to be unopened — near the stop sign on Billy Covington Road at the intersection with U.S. 220.
It’s a subject that county commissioners have brought up time and time again.
Commissioner Herb Long even went so far as to make an Orwellian suggestion to somehow be able to track down litterers by connecting bar codes with purchases made by debit or credit cards.
While that idea wasn’t really practical, commissioners did enact harsher punishments for anyone caught polluting. There were even talks of instituting a program in the schools, so children will learn early on to respect the environment.
“We’ve just got to do something about this trash … because it is a reflection on the county and it obviously hurts with recruiting people moving in here, industry moving here, and we just need to take a little bit more pride in our county,” Kenneth Robinette, chairman of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, told the Daily Journal two years ago.
Volunteers from the Creek Runners, the city of Rockingham, companies like Cascades and Perdue Foods and other county residents have picked up hundreds of bags of trash along Hitchcock Creek and the Pee Dee River. The county government has also had workers go out and clean up certain roads, especially when courting new industry.
We still agree with Robinette that it’s going to take a group effort.
Instead of relying on the government to do something, individuals — like those previously mentioned — should take initiative.
Instead of throwing garbage out the window, throw it on your floorboard and clean out your vehicle later or keep a bag in the car to stow your trash.
While media and social media have both played a role in things getting done, it’s those with the desire to keep the county clean who matter.
To once again quote Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Some residents complain that they want more in the county — more stores, amenities, jobs.
That’s not going to happen until everyone can learn to take care of what we already have.