|Trash by the car vacuums at the Sunoco station.|
Kay Cooper and Nancy Vorona, longtime community activists who’ve been working on cleaning up the Seven Corners area, are finding some of the business owners and managers are interested in helping, too.
The two Lake Barcroft residents have taken on responsibility for picking up trash and illegal signs along both sides of Route 7 between Sleepy Hollow Road and Nevius Street as part of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Highway program. They make the rounds at least twice a month when the weather is good, which is a lot more than the once-a-quarter cleanup required under the program.
|This newspaper bin has been here for more than a year.|
But it’s been getting frustrating for them to fill up dozens of trash bags and then “see all the litter back again a couple of days later,” Cooper says. Also, under the VDOT program, they’re only supposed to pick up trash in the right-of-way, not on private property, which is just as messed up.
So they decided to approach businesses along Route 7 and ask the managers to help. “They were very receptive,” Vorona says. “They were all really committed to doing something.”
|Do we need this?|
Robert Brooks, manager of the Sunoco station at 6301 Leesburg Pike by Castle Road, said he is interested in working on community cleanups and improving the landscaping around the property. He said he already got one clothing donation box taken away and will try to have some newspaper bins removed.
Owners or managers of EuroMarket, Public House No. 7, Touch of Class Hair Salon, Bank of America, and Seven Corners Laundromat also expressed interest in working with the community to clean up the area.
The business people hasn’t realize that they could have the donation bins and newspaper boxes removed from their property. And they didn’t know that the donation bins are installed by private companies that resell the donated goods for a profit; they aren’t operated by charities. There had been an overturned news bin by the hair salon parking lot for over a year, and the owner didn’t know how to get it removed.
Cooper says she found the one-on-one conversations with business people to be very helpful in encouraging them to join the cleanup efforts. “We’re not being accusatory. We’re asking them to partner with us,” she says. “We want to empower them. They don’t have to put up with this.”
|Illegal signs at the Route 7/Route 50 intersection.|
Vorona and Cooper are also concerned about the proliferation of illegal signs along Route 7, and they have filed numerous complaints with VDOT about signs in the right-of-way for Mattress Warehouse, Ashley Furniture, Burlington Coat Factory, and many other businesses last spring. VDOT sent letters to those businesses warning them that if the signs aren’t removed, they will be fined $100 per sign, but it isn’t known whether fines were actually imposed.
VDOT and Fairfax County worked out an agreement that took effect last July calling for the county to take control over enforcing the law against signs in the VDOT right of way. Under that program, people in the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office’s Community Labor Force remove illegal signs along certain heavily traveled roads.
|Donation boxes don't support charities.|
Cooper and Vorona don’t think that’s enough. The sign crews only patrol each road on the list once a month, so the signs keep sprouting back up. Also, the county doesn’t seem to be aggressively fining businesses or organizations that violate the sign ordinance.
Cooper and Vorona organized a communitywide cleanup in Seven Corners last fall and have scheduled another one for April 26. The Bailey’s Crossroads/Seven Corners Revitalization Corporation was awarded a Fairfax County Neighborhood Enhancement Partnership Program (NEPP) grant last year to support the cleanups, as well as landscaping and efforts to engage the business community.
There are lots of small green spaces between businesses where improved landscaping could make a huge difference, Vorona says, and she hopes to use some of the NEPP grant funds to purchase plants.
Cooper believes cleanup efforts would be more successful if businesses, communities, and citizens can join forces to put pressure on public officials. “We’re tired of waiting for the county and VDOT to do the things they’re supposed to do.”