|Piles of trash in a parking lot behind the Willston Center on Route 50.|
Cooper is beyond frustrated at the lack of action. “We spent hours on this and got nowhere,” she said. “It’s been like pulling teeth to get any information from anybody. It’s like they don’t really want to help us.”
Nearly a year ago Cooper and Vorona, in a spirit of neighborhood activism, started organizing a community-wide cleanup to occur on June 23, focusing on Leesburg Pike. They were inspired by the success of the huge annual Culmore Cleanup in Bailey’s Crossroads that started 10 years ago.
They knew they needed approval from VDOT, but didn’t think that would be an insurmountable problem. Boy, were they wrong.
|An embankment next to Route 50 is full of trash.|
They were also told they needed to purchase $1 million worth of liability insurance, hire a private contractor to provide security support, and set up “changeable message signs” two weeks in advance to warn the public about the clean-up event. Dunlap also told them VDOT preferred having the event scheduled on a weekday, even though that would make it more difficult to recruit volunteers.
“Due to the complexity of the approval process, the liability issue, and the cost to us of time and money involved to secure approval, we have decided to put the proposed June 23 clean-up effort on hold until we can determine if an appropriate and cost-effective approach is possible,” Cooper responded in an email to Dunlap.
Dunlap also told Cooper that local police, and not VDOT, are responsible for removing illegal signs, even if the signs are in the VDOT right of way. Meanwhile the Fairfax County Police Department said they’re not authorized to remove signs in the VDOT right of way. [VDOT and Fairfax County officials have been negotiating an agreement on enforcing the ban on signs, but nothing has been announced yet.]
But their permit does not include the messiest areas in Seven Corners—the intersection of Route 50 and Little River Turnpike and the litter-strewn embankments along those roads. So Cooper proposed another solution: The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office has a Community Labor Force (CLF) program that uses inmates to pick up litter, as well as carry out other work, such as landscaping and graffiti removal. Why not enlist them to clean up Seven Corners?
Well, that didn’t work out either. In response to a request from Cooper, Sgt. Matthew Ware, CLF supervisor, commended Cooper and Vorona for “taking pride for the condition/appearance of your community” but said “we are restricted from working there as well.”
Although the CLF picked up litter along those roadways last summer in partnership with VDOT and the Mason Supervisor’s Office, Ware said: “The CLF really doesn’t have the ability to perform a complete roadside clean-up (lacking traffic barriers/safety trucks/manpower). Randomly we will pick-up trash, signs, and other roadside debris but only in areas that the deputy feels the laborers can safely work.”
Cooper has spent countless hours filling out forms, writing to county and state officials, and speaking at meetings of the Bailey’s Crossroads Revitalization Corporation (BCRS), Mason District Council of Community Associations, and the Seven Corners Land Use and Transportation Task Force. Cooper was appointed by Gross to the Seven Corners Quality of Life Working Group, which is expected to submit recommendations to the task force this spring. A VDOT representative had been scheduled to speak at a BCRC meeting, but didn’t show up.