Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
Carter County has a littering problem. It’s nothing new. The county fiscal court, county attorney, and solid waste and sheriff’s departments have been trying to address the issue with illegal dumping for some time now. They’ve put up cameras to catch dumpers in the act at some of the worst and most heavily dumped locations. But closing one illegal dump site often just leads to a shift to another.
This issue was brought into the light again on Monday morning as staff at Carter Caves State Resort Park found more than 20 tires had been dumped on the creek bank near the entrance to the park. Park staff spared no time cleaning up the mess, making sure they don’t get washed downstream when creek waters inevitably rises again. But that doesn’t help with the tires, garbage, and debris already in our creeks.
Community cleanup efforts sponsored by groups like The Friends of Tygart Creek have done a lot of hard work cleaning up the creek in the past, hauling out multiple tires and even large home appliances along with the ubiquitous plastic bottles, pop cans, and other litter. But if the community doesn’t take some pride in our lovely wild spaces, and do their part to keep them clean, they’re fighting a losing battle.
The shame of it is Carter County’s natural beauty is one of our greatest selling points. People love the kind of natural landscapes that we take for granted. Doubt it? Take a drive out to Carter Caves and count the number of out of state and out of county license plates in the parking lot of the lodge, campground, and gift shop. When warm weather comes back around, park yourself on Carol Malone Boulevard and count the number of vehicles with kayaks and canoes on their roofs. See how many other states are represented on those plates too.
We have a lot to offer, and people would love to come see it. People DO love coming to see it. But no one wants to hike in a garbage dump or to kayak in a cesspool.
I remember being extremely impressed by the sheer walls and rock overhangs on my first kayak trip down Tygart Creek from the Devil’s Backbone to the Carter Caves park entrance. I grew up playing in Tygart, but this was a view of the creek I’d never seen before. But as impressed as I was with the beauty, it was marred by the tires, the pop bottles, and even a refrigerator, that littered the bank, some buried so deep in the mud, or tangled in the roots of trees, that it would take serious effort to remove them.
There are folks willing to do that hard work, and I can’t express enough how much I personally appreciate those efforts. But what good does it do if you would rather dump your discarded appliances over the hill instead of driving to the county dumpsters? The answer is very little.
Carter County’s citizens need to step up, and hold each other accountable. If you know someone who tosses their empty pop bottles out their car window, or dumps junk where it can wash into our creeks, make it a point to call them to task. Because if we don’t, no one else will.
Jeremy D Wells can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org