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Coping with unsightly trash and graffiti

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — Municipalities do their best to ensure their communities are clean and safe, but sometimes things can fall through the cracks.

On social media recently, a resident inquired as to why the Town has yet to paint over the graffiti that was painted on a concrete wall that overlooks the Trans Canada Highway as it passes outside of Port Aux Basques. The graffiti had been there for months, and remained during the Come Home Year festivities, but Mayor Brian Button said it has now been repaired.

“I wasn’t aware that it wasn’t done. There was a report that someone put on Facebook saying it still wasn’t done, the graffiti was still there. I wasn’t aware it was still there because it’s down on the lower highway part, but it was done the very next morning.”

Button said the thing people have to realize is that the Town has a lot of work on the go at once.

“There’s a lot of things that are on the list and unfortunately sometimes, when that list is in place, some other work comes up that was unexpected, some emergency work or some waterline breaks, whatever the case may be. Some of those things, as a result, that are not at the top of the priority list can get overlooked.”

The graffiti may have been cleaned up, but it triggered more concerns about the amount of unsightly trash that never seems to decrease despite constant public pleas not to litter. Mark Lomond of Sou’Wes Newfoundland Delta Waterfowl said it seems to be an ongoing issue.

“Even when we were doing the cleanups — like one day when we were cleaning up the service road — on our way to the dump we went back to Port Aux Basques for a minute to get a coffee and on our way back up the highway, just long enough to get a coffee, there were two bags of garbage thrown out on the service road again. Everywhere we cleaned up is full of garbage again. It’s an ongoing issue and there are definitely solutions. Not every municipality has these issues.”

Lomond said you almost have to take care of it all, make sure it is all done, because it seems to be a monkey-see, monkey-do scenario.

“You are always going to have some young ones, for example, who need to be led by example. It’s not just young ones throwing out this garbage, but if they are seeing it thrown out all the time how are they supposed to know the difference? It needs to be taken care of and shown that it’s not okay because the generations coming behind are going to be okay with garbage everywhere if it’s all they’re used to.”

Lomond believes it is time for punishments to be doled out for those caught littering.

“Even if the minimum was given out to people, I think it would discourage people. It seems like garbage is being tossed out everywhere and they’re not catching a single person. I’m not sure why that is. You don’t need to catch everybody. You just need to make an example of a few people,” said Lomond. “It’s the same spots over and over and over, so I’m not sure what can be done but these areas need to be monitored. Put up a trail cam or something. All you need is to catch a few people.”

Button said he doesn’t want to make any excuses on the side of the municipality, because there are cases where they have to do better, but did state that no matter who is doing the cleanup, the amount of trash is completely unnecessary.

“As a general public, we seem to become more conscious about throwing our garbage around but, in recent years, stuff is just being thrown everywhere. People go and they eat a box of chicken, and they just throw the bag, the box, all out on the ground. They are going to be going back home. There’s a garbage can in their house. The garbage collection comes every week right to your door and takes it away for you.”

Button said it is unbelievable that people will pull into a side road or service road to throw out their garbage.

“We are only going to have a clean community, a clean province, if we do our part, and we can’t expect all the time that it will be a municipal worker going out to clean it up, that it’s going to be a volunteer group going to clean it up or that it has to be done on clean up days,” said Button. “It’s shameful to tell you the truth. I don’t know how people can have a conscience to do it. Sometimes when I am in my vehicle, I get frustrated because the cup holders are full of drinks — coffee cups or water bottles — but I would never dream of throwing them out on the ground. I’m going to take them in the house eventually. We all have lunches in our cars. We all go for drives, but if someone ever saw me put down the window in my vehicle and throw something out, they better get me checked in somewhere because I’ve definitely gone off the grid.”

Button said that sometimes social media can be frustrating because as soon as there is an issue it seems like the municipality and their workers are attacked.

“They’re saying we haven’t cleaned this up and ‘what’s wrong with the town,’ but it wasn’t the town that put it there. The Town, we continue to write the Town for other issues and town improvements, and our workers are out working hard to get them done, but when we’ve got to stop, forget about that job, and do something that individuals created, that becomes an issue as far as I’m concerned,” said Button. “The people that are doing it have got to do better. The bulk of our communities would never dream of doing it. They would take their garbage home, and it frustrates them as much as it frustrates me, but the small percentage is out there doing it and the onus is on us (the Town) to stop everything and go pick it up all the time. No doubt, in some cases we have to do better, but I want to stress, we shouldn’t have to do it.”

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