The push is on for more cleanup around Cairo

Submitted photoVolunteers with Rivers Alive post next to their haul of garbage

CAIRO — A city-backed volunteer initiative to keep Cairo clean will be expanded to keep a more regular cleanup schedule.

Main Street director Alyssa Blakley is hoping to host street cleanup events at "trouble areas" in both the city and across the county on a monthly basis.

"(My) hopes are that when we start showing in the community that people care enough to go out and keep it clean that it will motivate others to try to keep it clean as well," Blakley said at Monday's meeting of the Cairo City Council. "We're going to try it and see how it works."

Blakley recently participated in a Rivers Alive cleanup event, gathering garbage at boat landings along the Ochlockonee River in an effort to keep Grady County clean. The program is part of the Keep Cairo-Grady County Beautiful initiative which Blakley oversees for the city.,

A group of 15 volunteers, including Blakley, recovered 21 bags of trash, as well as a mattress, a chair and a tire at the Hadley Ferry Road boat landing. Much of it originated from a nearby garbage dumpsite. Another landing at the Highway 93 bridge could not be accessed due to flooding, though a later review of the site did not find any litter.

Subsequent discussions with volunteers, some of whom are members of the GoldenTriangle Resource Conservation and Development Council and the Ochlockonee River Water Trail, turned into brainstorming sessions on how to launch additional environmental initiatives in the City of Cairo — and the idea to expand Keep Cairo-Grady County Beautiful's stamp was born.

So-called "trouble areas" will be identified across the city with the help of local government department heads. Blakley also asked council members to keep their eyes and ears open for problem areas within their districts that the program can target.

Clean-up volunteers will be provided lunches by the city.

"Those Subway sandwiches taste so much better after working hard," Blakley said.

Council members were supportive of Blakley's concept.

"That would be a good thing to get back," said Council member Jimmy Douglas, who noted that city work crews and volunteers joined forces several years ago to clean up major roads downtown. "I think a lot of people would do that."

In Blakley's vision, the newly-expanded program would be a regularly scheduled event that would attract volunteers from school clubs, local churches, civic groups and ordinary citizens.

Specific areas could even be designated for regular cleanup by certain groups depending on the program's level of interest.

"If I have a church that comes to me and says 'we want to adopt South Broad Street because that's where our church is,' then I certainly would let them," Blakley said.

Part of the issue with "Adopt a Road" programs is that a change in leadership in the adopting organization can lead to a drop in interest, Blakley said. As Main Street director, she says it would be her job to keep volunteers committed.

Cleanups would not take long, Blakely said. She noted that the recent Rivers Alive effort took just about an hour and a half with 15 volunteers.

"It doesn't take long once you get people going," she said.

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