Trash in our rives and streams and strewn along roadsides doesn’t make for a pretty picture

Published 9:21 am Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I recently attended a Keep Carter County Beautiful (the former Carter County Proud) meeting and was astounded by the reports of the group on some of their street and highway cleanups. Milligan Highway, Old Bristol Highway, and other various roads around the county (including the city) from which individuals had collected multiple full garbage bags worth of random trash just sitting in the ditch-lines. Both of these roads are secondary entrances into our county and, while not likely, very well may be used by tourists visiting us. But, logic would imply that if these roads are like this, our major entrances (think 19E and 321/Elk Avenue) very well may be worse.
Once a year, the Chamber of Commerce has sponsored a river cleanup. Every year they pull bags worth of garbage, tires, larger plastic toys, and other household items from our rivers. Similar efforts occur at Watauga Lake and Wilbur Lake each year. If you’ve visited any of the little coves on Watauga or Wilbur Lake via a boat or kayak, you know what I’m talking about — plastic bottles, styrofoam cups, and random pieces of plastics from who knows what. Some of this comes from boats on the lake, while some of it flows into the lake through rivers and streams, but regardless of where it comes from it makes us look bad.
Imagine you plan a family vacation in the mountains out west. You’re looking for something affordable, yet relaxing with things to do nearby. When you arrive, however, you find fast-food bags thrown in the ditch lines, rubber tires trapped along the side of a river that you’ve paid to float down, or a plastic bottle floating beside you on the lake you’re paddle boarding on. I don’t know about you, but that would probably be the last time I would visit that place! Sure, the scenery is great, but the trash just ruins that picturesque image of that place.
This could easily be Elizabethton and Carter County. As we work to improve the tourist economy in our county, we must keep in mind that we are opening our home to others. Surely you wouldn’t invite friends over and leave your house a mess. We need to do the same to our community. Save that fast-food bag in the car until you get home or your destination. Many businesses and restaurants have garbage cans right outside their entrance that you can use. Take advantage of our free, county operated recycling centers, return used fluorescent bulbs to Lowes, or plastic bags to Ingles or Food City. Help keep our home ready and prepared to accept visitors. After all, they’re helping us and our economy more than we’re helping them! Let’s talk about it!
(Jon Hartman is Director of Planning & Economic Development for the City of Elizabethton. He can be contacted at or by phone at (423) 542-1503)

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