Clash about trash

Crowds leave litter downtown

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— While Tracy Barnett picks up bags of trash along Lincoln Avenue twice a week, she sometimes thinks about the "old-school days."

"You used to watch merchants up and down the street, early in the morning, way before their business opened, hosing down the sidewalk and doing a really good job of cleaning up for the day," said Barnett, program manger for Main Street Steamboat Springs.

And that dedication still exists, Barnett said. On her cell phone Thursday afternoon, Barnett praised several local businesses -- including Johnny B Good's Diner and F.M. Light & Sons -- for doing a "great job" of keeping the sidewalks in front of their establishments clean.

But in the wake of two massive tourist weekends -- and ongoing events associated with the Steamboat Springs Professional Rodeo Series and Triple Crown Sports, a Fourth of July parade and a Rainbow Family gathering that brought many participants to downtown Steamboat Springs -- some local business owners say Lincoln Avenue has been littered with trash.

"The biggest issue for us lately has been the trash all over Fifth Street and up and down Main Street," said Cathy Vogelaar, owner of Steamboat Floral & Gifts.

What Barnett called "old-school," Vogelaar called an excessive, unnecessary use of time.

"Before they start their day, our employees spend half an hour or an hour picking up trash outside," Vogelaar said. "I hired them to work in a floral shop, not to pick up trash."

"It's always a mess out there," added Steamboat Floral employee Kessia Petersen. The store is at Lincoln Avenue and Fifth Street, next to Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill. Vogelaar said she, the owner of her building, and the owner of Mahogany Ridge have called city officials recently to express concerns about trash.

Trash removal along Lincoln Avenue is the responsibility of the city's Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department. As the department's facilities supervisor, Jeff Nelson has coordinated trash removal efforts since 2000.

"Seven days a week, the trash cans (on Lincoln) are being emptied in the summertime," Nelson said. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the job is contracted to Waste Management, Nelson said. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends, his staff does the job, emptying cans on Lincoln from Third Street to 10th Street.

Seven days a week, Nelson added, his staff does a trash removal "sweep" along Lincoln. Nelson said he has not noticed an increase in trash downtown in recent weeks.

Vogelaar also expressed concerns about a lack of public trash cans downtown.

Nelson said there is at least one trash can on each side of each block for most of Lincoln Avenue. In the heart of downtown, some blocks contain two or three trash cans on each side of Lincoln Avenue.

"We've got it well covered in needed areas," Nelson said.

Barnett and Nelson said it is the responsibility of business owners to keep the sidewalk clear of trash in front of their business -- similar to clearing snow in the winter.

"One of the things that people commented on in our survey last year is that downtown looks dirty, and we're trying to address that," Barnett said about the Main Street Steamboat Springs organization. "I don't want to sound like I'm harping on people, but it's not the responsibility of the city to keep the fronts of their business or their windows clean. It should be the pride of ownership that does that."

To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com.

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