• 77°

Reader: Stop littering! We’re trashy, we look bad!

To the Editor:
My husband and I chose Butler, Tenn., for retirement after 26 years in the Marine Corps because of beautiful, clean Watauga Lake and the gorgeous mountains surrounding us. Our backyard is Cherokee National Forest. Who could ask for a more ideal environment for beauty, peace and quiet? I treasure every inch of wilderness surrounding me, but it’s become very clear that not everyone in our community does. I frequently drive between Elizabethton and my home in Johnson County and never have I been so distracted and disgusted by the amount of litter lining Highway 321. My son and I have filled 20 trash bags with litter over the course of six weeks just covering a three-mile mile stretch of roadway near our home. It’s appalling.
Everything ends up in our waterways as our weather dictates. We have no control over the wind and rain that washes cigarette butts along with the aforementioned items into our rivers and streams. My concern is foremost for the wildlife that unknowingly consume these bits of plastic, fill their bellies full and then die of starvation. I’m concerned also for the quality of the water that I submerse myself in Watauga Lake and that I drink from my well.
I’ve spoken to the sheriff and hear about the shortage of correction officers which prevents our jailbirds from getting out and picking up litter. I’ve spoken to a deputy sheriff and I hear that we don’t have enough deputies to enforce our litter laws. I’ve spoken to Sandy Hammons, our litter control officer, and hear how grossly understaffed and underfunded she is. I’ve spoken to Mike Taylor, Johnson County mayor, who empathizes, but it seems his hands are tied by finances. The irony is that cleaner communities are safer communities and the trashier we become, the less desirable our area is to the valuable tourist dollar that would help fund these shortages.
When I shop in Mountain City, I mention to the checkout clerk that I wish they would ban plastic grocery bags as I’m tired of seeing them on the side of the road with all of the other Styrofoam cups, plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Before I know it, I have a posse of women surrounding me expressing their similar feelings. We vent for about five minutes together and then move on. I’m not alone.
So, now I’m speaking to you, the citizens of Johnson County. Do you want something done about how trashy we look? Are you a proactive type of person who can spare a few hours every month to the cause? If so, I’d like to meet you to organize a grassroots effort to make a change and clean up our community. Please contact me at johnsoncountyproud@gmail.com
Our environment needs you.

Kelli Broussard
Concerned Butler Citizen