No one has ever considered me a hippie environmentalist. But if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s people who treat the land like it’s one big trash can.
Growing up on the farm, it was pointed out to me from a young age that my grandpa wanted the farm to look clean. The grass was always to be kept cut and neat, machinery was parked in rows or in a shed, garbage was meant for the can and junk shouldn’t be left sitting around.
I often wish some people I encounter around Dickinson would have grown up in a similar atmosphere, where lessons about cleanliness and respect for the community and land sometimes go out the window — quite literally in one case.
A couple weeks ago, I was driving in a south Dickinson neighborhood on a quiet mid-week morning when a woman driving the car in front of me stuck her left arm out the car’s window holding a Dairy Queen cup. She hung on to the cup outside for a brief moment as she slowed to a half-stop. She then proceeded to drop what appeared to be a full milkshake — or some other ice cream treat — directly onto the street, splattering the contents about 15 feet from someone’s yard.
As one would be, I was steaming angry. This had been no accident. The cup didn’t fall out of her car unintentionally. The woman clearly knew what she was doing and made the decision to drop her trash onto a city street. Clearly, her late-model Mercury Cougar was in too pristine of condition to house this refuse any longer.
So, because I’m not a cop and I couldn’t turn on a siren and ticket her for knowingly littering, I decided to lay on the horn so she knew someone had seen what she did. This intelligent individual promptly tore out onto the next street and, before I knew it, had left me in the dust as she cruised down a city street doing at least 50 mph. Obviously, she felt ashamed and was afraid I’d chase her down or report her to the police for what she did.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only instance of littering I’ve seen. I’ve spent the past month working afternoons and evenings, which leave my mornings pretty wide open. That means I do a lot of driving around town trying to find a good new place to walk my dog.
In the process, I see plenty of junk on the roadsides and sometimes catch a person littering out the window of their vehicle, like the numbskull in the Mercury.
In speaking to law enforcement, I found that they rarely, if ever, issue littering citations. Dickinson Police Patrol Sgt. Nick Gates said he “maybe” has issued one littering ticket in his career.
“Nobody litters in front of the police,” Gates said. “That’s the problem.”
In the city, littering can get you a $100 fine. If a Stark County Sheriff’s deputy catches you doing it, the fine is only $25.
Still, Stark County Sheriff’s Major Fern Moser said it’s difficult to catch someone in the act of littering, and even more of a challenge to find and cite a person reported of littering.
“The best thing is to try to get as much detail as you can and we’ll see what we can do,” he said.
It’s disheartening to hear, and it’s disheartening for guys like Moser and Gates to say. They, like most of us, hate to see people litter. But there’s little they can do about it unless they have someone dead-to-rights caught in the act.
Sadly, trash isn’t the only form of litter I encounter in our community.
My most hated source of refuse is the kind not created by man’s best friend.
Nothing irks me more than when I come across a big ol’ pile of canine constitutional. Especially when the dog left his or hers little gift on a walking path or pavement and the owner still refused to pick it up.
Word to the wise: If you get a dog, buy some bags for when they do their business.
I know, it’s embarrassing to bend over with a plastic bag in hand and pick up after your dog. But guess what? It’s your dog. That’s part of the gig!
We live across the street from one of Dickinson’s largest parks. Areas of this park have a tendency to become a minefield of brown.
I’ve literally watched people take their dog to the corner of this park, let the dog do his thing, look at the present he provided to the park and then promptly walk away. I have no qualms about yelling at these people and telling them to pick up the poop. Kids play there for crying out loud! But they just look back at me dumbfounded, as if they have no clue they did anything wrong or because they simply don’t care.
Little did they know, according to Gates, they had just committed a Class B misdemeanor of disposition of animal waste by owner. Seriously! It’s a city law that you can be handed a misdemeanor citation for refusing to pick up after your dog.
In the end, littering is all about respect.
Respect for the land, community and yourself. So, please stop trashing our community and pick up after your dog.