2013-09-19 / News

Streets, shoreline scheduled for cleanup this weekend

By Ken Shane

If all goes according to plan, by the time Sunday morning rolls around, Conanicut Island will be a much cleaner place.

Two events are planned for Saturday: one aimed at cleaning the island’s coastal areas, and another focused on tidying the town’s roads.

The state Department of Transportation has an Adopt-A-Highway program that asks volunteers to make a two-year commitment cleaning litter on state roads. A minimum of four cleanups a year is required. A report card is filled out by the volunteers after each cleanup so they can be properly credited. It also helps the state keep track of which roads have been cleaned. Once a section of road has been adopted, the state no longer cleans it. It’s now the responsibility of the volunteers.

According to records, several Jamestown organizations have adopted sections of state-owned roads on the island. The Conservation Commission first adopted the stretch of North Road between West Wind Drive and the Route 138 overpass in 1996. The local Lions Club adopted a section between Conanicus Avenue and East Shore Road, and a stretch of Route 138 between Eldred Avenue and the Newport Bridge. The Chamber of Commerce has committed to Narragansett Avenue between North Road and Conanicus Avenue. Other participants include the Cub Scouts and Consistent Care.

Whether or not the organizations in question have met the requirements of the Adopt-A-Highway program is an open question. Sometimes there are organizational changes, and new members and leaders aren’t aware of the previous commitment.

However, they have all been spurred into action by local environmentalist Michael Brown. He organized the effort to coincide with a coastal cleanup being conducted by the Ocean Conservancy on the same day.

“I think it’s important to do it on the same day to make the connection between what’s on the roads in Jamestown and what ends up in the water,” said Brown, a conservation commissioner in town.

According to Brown, he learned about the coastal cleanup, which has been ongoing for more than 26 years, when he tried to register a beach cleanup with the Conservation Commission last year. Brown then contacted Consistent Care about cleaning up its road section from Mackerel Cove to Beavertail on the same day. He then went to the Ocean Conservancy and met with them.

“It just seemed like a good event,” he said, “so we decided to expand it.”

Brown said he wanted to do a fall cleanup to compliment the Conservation Commission’s spring cleanup, which usually takes place around Earth Day. Since this cleanup happens at the end of the beach season, it would come at a time when the litter problem is theoretically at its worst.

As for the road cleanup, it’ll basically be picking up litter on the side of the road, he said. The state will provide trash bags, orange safety vests and signage that indicates where road work is being done.

Anyone interested in volunteering can go to Fort Wetherill at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Once there, volunteers can choose to participate in either the road cleanup or the coastal cleanup. Both efforts are scheduled to end at noon. There is no rain date scheduled for the event.

“These are state roads, not town roads,” Brown said. “Once they’re adopted, the state doesn’t clean them. They assume that you’re living up to your contract. Interestingly, there’s a form you’re supposed to fill out every time you pick up the trash. You’re supposed to list how many bags you have and file the paperwork.”

The Ocean Conservancy cleanup is part of an international coastal effort. The organization reaches out to interested parties to lead the local effort. In Rhode Island, the cleanup is hosted by the Audubon Society and led by Deb Greenhalg of Scuba Made Easy, a local diving operation. Greenhalg is serving as “beach captain” at Fort Wetherill for the event.

“We look forward to everyone getting involved,” Greenhalg said. “Families, students, organizations, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and local YMCA members offer volunteers who demonstrate their commitment to the community and the environment, keeping our planet healthy for the future.”

Greenhalg recommends that volunteers wear sturdy shoes and bring gloves and refreshments. She also said that volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied their parent or guardian.

Anyone interested are asked to contact Greenhalg at scubamadee asy@cox.net so she can get an estimate of the number of volunteers available.

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