Karen Gordon Schulman: Be 'trash aware'

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In June of 2006, after working on the city' Clean-Up, Green-Up Day, I wrote a letter to the editor explaining my concern regarding the trash along the roadsides in both the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County in general. I also made a number of suggestions of various ways in which we and our city and county governments could help keep Routt County clean. Below are the points I included in that letter:

1. Have at least a spring and fall countywide clean-up day.

2. Actively promote Adopt-a-Highway programs to businesses and individuals so that more of the county and state roads will be kept cleaner.

3. Post "Fines for Littering" signs along our main highways and county roads and enforce them.

4. Utilize those who have community service obligations to help keep the roadsides clean.

5. Utilize trustees at the Routt County Jail to help keep the roads clean (instead of watching TV and sitting around).

6. If you smoke, please take responsibility for your cigarette butts.

7. Lastly, be "trash aware" (don't litter, and pick up litter when you are able), and encourage others to do the same.

This started my personal mission to do some trash pickup, photograph the trash I would accumulate in a single trash gathering "session" and send these photos along with suggestions for lessening and eventually eliminating road side trash from our beautiful valley, to various county and city government officials, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., and others.

Over the past year and a half, I spoke and e-mailed with the county commissioners and others regarding what could be done to decrease this increasing problem. I attended two meetings with commissioners Nancy Stahoviak, Doug Monger, Diane Mitsch Bush; Paul Draper of the Road and Bridge Department, Mike Zopf of our Environmental Health Department, and others.

On May 19 of this year, the Yampa Valley Highway Cleanup Event was sponsored by the Routt County Board of Commissioners. This will now become an annual event. I was thrilled!

I took a bit of a personal detour over the last eight months, as I have been in treatment for breast cancer, so my personal trash pickups came to a bit of a halt. However, I did not stop antagonizing the powers that be about my concern.

On Nov. 13, Nancy Stahoviak wrote to tell me that Helena Bond, of the commissioners' office, would take on the responsibility for coordinating efforts for an ongoing anti-litter and roadside cleanup campaign. Just two days later, six Routt County Jail trustees were out on U.S. Highway 40 doing a cleanup. I nearly jumped for joy when I drove west of town late Thursday afternoon and saw the large orange bags on the side of the road awaiting pickup.

This is just the beginning, and much more needs to be done, especially as our city and county grow. But I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to listen to my suggestions, and I welcome anyone who has other suggestions to present them and get involved. In Texas, they use the phrase, "Don't Mess With Texas." Maybe we could have a contest to come up with a slogan for our valley.

Lastly, I'd like to say a very big thank you to everyone who has helped get this movement going. Even if each of us picks up just a little bit of litter from outside of our homes and businesses, it will make a big difference.

Karen Gordon Schulman

Steamboat Springs

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