|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.
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.”