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Friday, August 31, 2012

Annandale man keeps Heritage Drive free of signs and litter

Ed D. on patrol
We’ve heard from a lot of people complaining about litter, illegal signs, and other property maintenance failures here in the Annandale area.

But there are a few dedicated citizens here who are taking action to clean up their communities. A case in point is “Ed D.,” as he prefers to be called (because “there are too many idiots out there”), who has made it his personal mission to keep Heritage Drive clean.

Ed, a resident of the Ravensworth-Bristow neighborhood, patrols  the entire 1.4-mile road, between Little River Turnpike and Ravensworth Road, picking up litter and removing signs in the VDOT right of way.

He joined the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Highway program, which gives him permission to take down illegal signs—everything from ads for massages to sport team registrations, from open house invitations to offers to buy gold. VDOT provides trash bags and vests.

Participants in the Adopt-a-Highway program are supposed to clean up their stretch of road four times a year. Ed, a retiree, patrols Heritage Drive four or five times a week, usually in the morning during the summer when it’s cooler. In fact, it’s part of his exercise routine, only instead of just walking around, he’s also accomplishing something useful.  

For Ed, the worst eyesores are the illegal signs. “Almost everybody who joins the Adopt-A-Highway program just wants to kill all the signs,” he says. He’s also become much more aware of other problems, like cars illegally parked on the grass.

He removed seven signs Aug. 30 and four the previous day. His “lifetime record,” since he started patrolling Heritage a couple of years ago, was a total of 60 during one long extended weekend, from Saturday through Tuesday. “It wasn’t even during election season. I was amazed,” he says.

VDOT has jurisdiction over signs in the right-of-way. It’s illegal to put signs there, but it’s also illegal for citizens to remove them. Individuals or organizations officially approved for the Adopt-a-Highway program are given permits that allow them take down signs.

Violations of county ordinances—such as vehicles parked illegally—need to be reported to Fairfax County code compliance officials. The county also imposes certain restrictions on signs on private property. 

A state law that took effect July 1 requires the county to enforce the ban on signs in the VDOT right of way, but Fairfax County and VDOT have not yet come to an agreement on how to do this.

 “VDOT is much more responsive to citizen complaints than Fairfax County,” Ed says. If he reports illegal signs in the median, “VDOT will correct it within 12 hours.”

“The county takes much longer,” he says. “There’s no assurance that they’re going to respond.” He’s had one sign complaint that’s been unresolved for two years. Unlike VDOT, which accepts complaints online, you have to call the county, and Ed says he has “no confidence that they’ve written anything down. They’re really behind the ball on this. Obviously, it’s not a priority for them.” 

He believes removing signs sends an important message to the perpetrators. “If you let these signs persist,  you’ll start seeing more violations, like gang graffiti. Then they’ll know that nobody cares about the area.”


  1. Bravo Ed. Keep up the good work. Illegal signs are the most egregious form of littering in my opinion. Such an eyesore!

  2. BRAVO!!!!!!!!

  3. Ed is a hero!

  4. Good on ya man...if you expect the government to do everything for you it wont happen. Sometimes you have to make things happen yourself. I salute you.

  5. Good job, Ed! You are an Annandale Patriot!

  6. YEAH ED! I actually am very glad you wrote about him, because we need to recognize these folks. There was also a nice older woman who cleans that hood up too - lots of apts nearby and trash on curbs - sad.

  7. Evelyn StClair9/3/12, 8:58 AM

    Most excellent work Mr Ed D! Thank you for your community service and concern for keeping the areas kept up. My kids call me crazy when I pick up trash on our street that 'falls off' the garbage truck on pick up day. I feel very vindicated and will tell them of your good example :)

  8. Daren Shumate9/3/12, 1:14 PM

    Now, we all need to contribute. My wife and I do the same thing regularly at Glasgow school which has become a real "litterpalooza!"

    Perhaps we should suggest to the county that they duplicate VDOT's on-line complaint system. Fairfax used to have on-line systems for zoning and traffic complaints but these were cut about three or four years ago when the county was cutting programs due to declining tax revenues.

    1. The form to complain to Fairfax is : .
      Down on the right is signs. The problem with Fairfax is that the form you fill in is then re-keyed into their system so you have to go back a day later to find the control number. VDOT is much better and automated.
      ed d.

  9. I see you corrected the mistake of stating it is Heritage Road, when I wrote that there is no such street and it is in fact Heritage Drive, which you should know. Unfortunately, you deleted my message and now pretend you did not make the mistake....just like the R's. Not very honest.

  10. I think you missed the point of this story it is about a great citizen who is helping our community and is a great citizen. I think you should not worry about a mistake in the story and just be happy that we have amazing citizens who are going out of their way to help our community.

  11. If you want credit for the correction, you would have to sign your name, Mr/Ms Anonymous.

    If you just wanted it fixed, you got what you wanted. The fact that a non-material detail has been corrected does not need a historical "paper trail."