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Monday, April 2, 2012

Community leaders seek solutions to litter problem

Neighborhood leaders and local residents urged lawmakers to crack down on litter at a recent environmental forum sponsored by the Mason District Council of Community Associations. They also networked among themselves and shared ideas for combating the unsightly mess along roadways and parks that is hurting Annandale’s image and bringing down property values.

One member of the audience urged Del. Kaye Kory and Fran Tunic of Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross’ office to “get rid of the plastic bags; that’s most of the trash. They’re in the trees. They’re in the brush.”  She proposed a ban on plastic bags, and Kory said, “I’ll be happy to introduce it.”

Another audience member, annoyed by all the signs posted in median strips and on telephone poles, said: “I have a real radical suggestion. Allow me and people like me to take the darn signs down.” Kory agreed that “it’s strange” that it is illegal to remove illegal signs. She noted that  “participating in the Adopt-a-Highway program gives you the authority to take signs down.”

Campaign signs abandoned in median strips long after Election Day were also identified as a considerable litter source throughout the Annandale area. Kory pointed out that there is a fine against people who fail to collect their political signs, but noted, “The General Assembly is not interested in raising fines,” and said the fine is about equal to VDOT’s cost for sending letters saying, “pick up your sign.”

Businesses must contribute $25 to the state Litter Control and Recycling Fund, which supports localities’ anti-litter efforts. In Fairfax County, these funds go to the Clean Fairfax Council, which helps neighborhood groups organize community clean-ups and educates the public about the benefits of recycling. The funds also support report-a-litterer, adopt-a-spot, and school and business education programs, said Jennifer Cole, executive director of the Clean Fairfax Council.

Kory noted that the Spring Stewardship Virginia Campaign promotes waterway adoption, trail improvement, the planting of riparian buffers, invasive species control, habitat improvement, and landscaping for conservation. “There aren’t funds available, but neighborhood groups and businesses that register can give their volunteers Stewardship Virginia certificates signed by the governor,” Kory said.

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