My wife and I moved to Hamilton County last year for many good reasons. Near the top of the list were the natural beauty and outdoor activities here. It is hard to find this combination of pristine mountains, streams, and lakes in one place.
This is what we don't understand. We have been shocked to see how much litter there is along the roads all over Hamilton County. Bottles, cans and food wrappers, are everywhere. Old furniture tossed to the side of the road is not uncommon. We have also seen how often cleanup crews need to be put to work in dangerous areas like the center median and shoulders of Rt. 27.
Are we alone in being offended by people who choose to trash this uniquely beautiful place? How can we best respond as a community to this?
* * *
No, you are not alone. Years ago there was not garbage pickup, people actually burned it in their backyard. Today the city picks up once a week and each county has several locations to dump most trash.
A lot of people from the very, very south have moved here with a different culture for dealing with trash. However if you have any regard for the unparalleled natural beauty of Tennessee there is no excuse.
Laws against littering are sporadically enforced as the THP is busy with tickets for seat belt violations and cell phone use. The fines are very high and can go up to $25,000 and two years in prison. Most people including THP don’t seem to know this.
We should be proud of our state and its beauty. Once destroyed it's very expensive to renew. It’s one of the few offenses that is never an accident and always premeditated. More people are reporting these violations and the police and courts must follow up.
* * *
You are very much not alone. Its a Tennessee problem, not just a Hamilton County problem. It's a culture problem above all.
I love this state. Have traveled it thoroughly by vehicle and on foot, backpacking. Only state/national parks are immune to this culture problem, that I've seen.
The further your get from cities, the worse the problem gets.
The issue can only be solved by bettering our culture. I imagine this can only be accomplished by including some form of education to our youth of the detriment of this behavior in our schools, churches and most importantly, in our homes. Maybe more state/local funded marketing to curb this behavior could help too.
But until our culture improves, we'll never keep up with the mountainous clean up necessary to keep our beautiful state clean.
* * *
On YouTube you can see a 1976 Public Service Announcement with Ed Bruce titled “Tennessee Trash.” Warning: once you hear the words, you will not be able to get the song out of your head.
The chorus goes, in part: “….there ain’t no lower class than the Tennessee Trash….”
Also, seeing heaps of trash and other stuff flying out of a ’62 Corvair is pretty memorable. It might be helpful if D.O.T. ran this ad in 2020.
* * *
There’s a couple of things I do to counter this, one is I just grabbed a trash bag and picked up along Cummings Highway in front of my and my neighbor’s place. Three hundred feet of roadside filled a household trash bag and then some. Those miniature liquor bottles are popular as are the pint plastic bottles.
I drive through North Carolina a bit, through Asheville, Hickory, Statesville, Winston Salem, Greensboro, Cary, Raleigh and so on and do not see in that lovely state the mass of trash we so proudly leave here in Chattanooga for all to enjoy. The exit I journey into town from is #174 on I-24. It is the first place one views coming into the city from the West and it typifies the non participation in trash pickup. The exits downtown at Market and Broad Street are our next good look at the casual streetscape of more trash. We used to pride ourselves on being the ”scenic city of the south” but now we are a big city so no need to deal with such minor issue. The irony is our state is enjoying nearly a billion dollar surplus in income and the city and county are trying to keep up with northeastern states with property tax revenues.
One human behavior I did a personal study on several years ago on this same stretch of highway. I term it a malaise measure. On a bend toward town a water main sprung a leak. For two months I watched it flow across the highway as traffic flowed by from the neighborhood around me and from all around when the interstate got turned to glue. So two or so months went by and I called the water company. The leak was resolved in a week. Wisdom there I presume is one needs to communicate with community leaders to get the wisdom to them. I saw a large measure of malaise in all who wet their tires, myself included.
The second of two things one can do is keep pen and paper in the vehicle. When trash is seen exiting from a car, note tag, vehicle make, model etc, occupant information as best noted and sort of debris thrown out, plus time and location. Then call 877-854-8837. Probably the greatest thing to realize is we are members of the only species that will spoil its nest. Next is when you get no response from community leaders, members of the press are willing to listen to you on tape or on camera.