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40 years of keeping James City beautiful

jojacobs@vagazette.com

For the 40th time, local residents will patrol the county’s roadways and fill bags with the refuse they find as part of the annual spring cleanup Saturday.

The county’s 40th annual Countywide Spring Cleanup brings hundreds of volunteers together to complete one mission: Make James City County a little cleaner.

In four decades, hundreds of volunteers have picked up more than 7 million pounds of trash from roadways and illegal dumping sites in the county, according to the county’s website.

At the helm of the project is Peg Boarman, who has participated in the event in one way or another for most of the annual events, motivated by a deep aversion to the sight of litter.

“I don’t like to see all the litter," Boarman said. “Some places don’t get picked up but once a year. I just get really stressed looking at it.”

Boarman’s dedication to a litter-free community stretches back before words such as “environmentalism” entered the general lexicon. As a child in the 1940s, Boarman took it upon herself to pick up trash on the road outside her home in small-town New Mexico.

The county’s annual spring cleanup has similarly humble origins — Boarman recalled she was one of about 15 volunteers present at the first cleanup.

Fast forward to 2017, where 229 volunteers came together to pick up litter. They collected 8.5 tons of waste, including 172 tires, and cleaned 176 miles of roadside, James City Environmental coordinator Dawn Oleksy wrote in an email. Oleksy serves as the staff liaison for the Clean County Commission.

The Clean County Commission, which organizes the event, is a group of local volunteers appointed by the Board of Supervisors to prompt recycling, litter control and environmental education. It sources the event’s volunteers from civic groups, schools, churches and other community organizations.

The spring clean up is more than collecting tin cans on the side of some residential street or obscure country road, it has a global importance. Some litter in the county eventually works its way to the Atlantic Ocean, Boarman said.

“It’s something that’ll benefit the environment and it will benefit all of us in the long run because the trash is going to harm the animals and eventually some of it is going to get into the waterways” said Boarman, who is commission chairwoman.

“That’s what distresses me so badly is to see what’s going into creeks into the river into the bay into the ocean.”

Volunteers have to register to take advantage of free trash drop-off at Jolly Pond Road Convenience Center, which will dispose of the litter collected by event participants. While an all-ages event, Boarman would like to see greater participation from young people.

“It should be a community effort to keep the community clean,” Boarman said.

The commission assigns volunteers to specific spots to clean, though it tries to accommodate requests. The event has also provide trash grabbers and reflective vests, though supplies are limited. To celebrate the 40th year, the event will conclude with a cookout. Everyone registered for the event is invited to the cookout, which starts at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Boarman said.

But while Saturday may be the decisive battle the war against litter wages all year long, as the commission and volunteers conduct cleaning projects throughout the year.

“There are many, many components to litter prevention,” Oleksy said. “We have a handful of highly educated citizens who are going above and beyond to help tackle this issue.”

40th Annual Countywide Spring Cleanup

When: Jolly Pond Road Convenience Center will accept litter for free from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 14.

Where: Litter pickup will take place throughout the county. Jolly Pond Road Convenience Center is located at 1204 Jolly Pond Road.

For more information, call 757-565-0032.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette
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