At a certain point, Goochland resident Sandy Hensley realized she was fighting a losing battle.
For several months last year, she and her husband had made it their mission to help clean up the roughly two-mile stretch of roadway between their home on Route 609 and Broad Street. Picking carefully through steep roadside ditches, they collected bag upon bag of discarded fast food packaging, plastic bottles and beer cans.
Eventually, health issues forced them to suspend their effort, Hensley explained, and it wasn’t long before the trash returned with a vengeance.
“Something needs to be done,” Hensley said, though she admits she doesn’t know what the best course of action is.
“I don’t know how you get people to stop littering, it just seems like they don’t care,” Hensley said. “It’s truly sad.”
Hensley isn’t alone in her efforts to try and take on what is becoming a hot button issue. Many other residents have also taken it upon themselves to tackle the trash problem in the areas where they live.
Michelle Matts and her children spent a recent Friday working to clean up a three-mile stretch of Three Chopt Rd, collecting 20 bags of litter and 18 tires.
For Hensley, Matts and others, pitching in to collect what gets pitched out is something they do out of a desire to help maintain the scenic beauty of the place they call home. But while committed groups of residents willing to collect trash on their own time certainly helps, it does little to address the root cause of a problem with which county leaders continue to struggle.
Goochland County administrator John Budesky discussed the issue during a Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 4, assuring residents that the county was not turning a blind eye to the trash problem. In addition to a Feb. 22 community clean-up event, the first of several that have been planned, Budesky said the county is continuing to pursue whatever solutions they can.
Some have suggested tighter monitoring and enforcement would help prevent would-be litterers from tossing trash, while others point out that actually catching someone in the act of throwing a bottle out the window is no easy task.
Some of those who contribute to the trash problem may not even realize it: Along Whitehall Road, for example, a good bit of roadside garbage likely comes from vehicles on the way to the dump without properly secured loads.
For newly elected county supervisor Neil Spoonhower, fighting roadside trash was not among the things he expected to see as a top priority among his new constituents. He soon realized, however, just how significant the problem is.
“It’s in front of us every day,” Spoonhower said, and has seemed to be even worse lately.
Spoonhower said he favors an approach similar to that used in Fluvanna, a county that has had success combating its own roadside garbage issues. There, he said, a combination of concerned citizens pitching in, strong local ordinances, and tough enforcement have made a major difference on the trash front.
It could work in Goochland as well, he said, particularly since so many residents are willing to help.
One of those residents is Matts, who said she plans to keep on working to keep the roadsides near her home clean. She also has a suggestion for other local homeowners.
“The people who own those particular properties with litter on them could help by cleaning up the litter on their own property,” Matts said. “If everyone did that it would help.”