DENHAM SPRINGS — Orange vest clad volunteer teams from almost every city, town and community in Livingston Parish gathered at specified meeting places early Saturday, Nov. 16, with bags, pickup sticks and an ample amount of enthusiasm to clean litter off roadsides.

The day’s “clean sweep” was part of the Litter Free LP movement spearheaded by the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce. April Wehrs, executive director of the chamber, said leaders in just about every area of the parish organized teams to get out and help pick up litter and trash that, in her words, “all too frequently detract from the beauty of our parish.”

A chamber news release said the 18 teams of volunteers picked up more than 200 bags of trash.

Wehrs said events surrounding the day started with the Livingston Parish Council declaring through a proclamation that Nov. 16 was Love Livingston Parish Litter Free Day. The proclamation was presented to the council on behalf of the chamber by John Blount, a chamber volunteer.

“This was, indeed, a special event for the chamber and for all the people in the parish,” she said. “We know that we can never pick up our way out of the problem with litter. However, events such as the Litter Free LP program bring awareness of the problems with litter. This shows that we are taking positive action against the litter challenge.

“When others see how many of our citizens are willing to get out to help make our parish more beautiful, maybe they will get the message that we all must do what we can to prevent litter on our roads and waterways,” she said.

Wehrs said the chamber is making every effort to bring attention to issues with litter and trash. She said efforts are being made to remind residents that excessive litter and trash can impede the flow of rainwater in ditches and culverts and that this fact alone should be an incentive to keep litter out of roadside ditches and drainage systems.

“If there are some who are not concerned with litter, I think that talk about drainage will get their attention," Wehrs said. “We are all aware of the problems with flooding and other issues related to drainage. Litter and trash can stop the flow of rainwater causing problems."

Wehrs said law enforcement also plays a role in litter abatement and pointed out that Springfield has a reputation for being a clean, relatively litter-free community.

“The citizens in Springfield make an effort to keep the community clean, and they have the help and support of their elected leaders and law enforcement personnel, and their efforts show,” she said.

The volunteer crews were formed in populated areas from Watson at the northern end of the parish to Denham Springs on the western edge, to Albany and Springfield in the east and other locations in between. The group of volunteers in Albany was typical of those who chose to spend the morning tidying up their places of habitation.

About 40 volunteers, most bundled for warmth on a chilly morning despite blue skies, milled around their new Albany City Hall before 8 a.m. The group included volunteers from as young as 10 years old to senior citizens.

Mayor Eileen McCarroll said she was thankful residents came out to pick up litter, especially the young people. She said that besides removing trash from streets and highways, the day’s event serves as a learning lesson for the entire community.

“When others see what these good people are doing, it will remind them not to litter,” she said. “I just know that the young people here today are learning a valuable lesson, and I think that they will take that lesson with them. If they pick up litter, they will learn not to litter, and they will teach their family members and friends the same lesson.” 

Ross Kinchen, who organized the litter sweep in Albany, echoed the mayor’s assessment of the group he was leading.

“I am overwhelmed by the support that we have here this morning,” he said. “We were not expecting this many people to get out here so early on a cold morning to pick up litter. We have tried this before and we would get about five to 10 people, but today’s turnout is just exceptional. I am so grateful for the turnout we have.” 

Kinchen assigned teams to go to specific areas and search for litter. He said  emphasis would be placed on the interstate entrances to the town.

In giving his instructions to the team, he said, “I love Albany, and you don’t know just how much it means to me to see so many of you out here this morning. This is a great, great turnout and it is just wonderful. You all know that littering is wrong, and you are showing everyone that you are willing to do your part to keep our streets and highways clean.” 

Kinchen said the interest shown at the day’s cleanup was indicative of the present attitude of the town residents.

“We are looking forward to some great things in Albany,” he said. “We have just finished our beautiful new city hall, and there are plans for other good things coming our way. Today is just one more step down the path that we think is positive one.” 

Also assisting in directing the cleanup sweep was Lynda Murphy-Gardiner who is affiliated with Keep Livingston Beautiful and the Chamber of Commerce. She read out instructions to the volunteers, cautioning them to be aware of traffic while clearing roadsides of litter.

In an interview, Murphy-Gardiner said the day’s litter sweep was just one facet of the effort being made to thwart littering. For example, she said, classes are being conducted in some elementary schools to raise awareness of the litter problem.

Following several hours of picking up litter, the many teams were invited to gather at Walk Ons in the Juban Crossroads shopping center for a celebration marking the end of the parishwide beautification effort.