Alexandria, Va. -- With a pile of collected litter and trash in the background, the National Park Service (NPS), the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF), and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) today convened at Daingerfield Park to launch the region’s first Litter Enforcement Week as the kick-off to the 20th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. This week, police officers throughout the Metropolitan Area will enforce existing litter laws throughout the area. Participating jurisdictions and agencies include the United States Park Police, the District of Columbia; Maryland’s Charles, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties; the cities of Rockville and Greenbelt; and Virginia’s Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William counties.
“We’re here to make an appeal for greater stewardship of our parklands and communities,” said Joseph M. Lawler, Regional Director of the National Capital Region NPS. “The amount of taxpayer money that is spent on cleaning up and transporting litter and illegally dumped items can and should be used more effectively.”
In 2007, the National Park Service spent more than $160,000 to remove litter and debris picked-up from the George Washington Parkway. Of that trash, nearly 219 tons of litter was collected; just moving that garbage cost about $15,000 of tax-payer money. The illegally dumped trash that cannot fit in garbage bags cost tax-payers another $20,000.
“Our goal is a cleaner community and so our plan is to remind everyone in the region that littering is a crime and like any other crime has consequences.” said Melvin C. High, Prince George’s County Police Chief on behalf of the COG Police Chiefs’ Committee. “Littering is what we call a quality-of-life crime, because it destroys the beauty of our streets, communities and parks. It can also be a danger because when trash is thrown or blows from an automobile or from a truck bed, it’s a road hazard. I am convinced that citizens everywhere want clean and litter-free communities and we know they will help us spread the word to friends and neighbors that citations will be written and fines levied for offenses such as dumping and littering our streets and roadways.”
Litter Enforcement Week is part of the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative (TFPWI), a region-wide effort spearheaded by the AFF to reduce trash and litter, increase recycling, education, and awareness of trash issues in the Potomac River Watershed with the goal of a “Trash Free Potomac by 2013.” COG’s Police Chief’s committee voted to support these efforts by highlighting enforcement as a way to both educate and positively change behavior – helping to eliminate the area’s trash and litter problems. The week culminates on Saturday, April 5, 2008, with the 20th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. On that day, thousands of volunteers will participate at hundreds of Cleanup sites throughout the region to help remove the enormous amount of trash that drains into the Potomac River.
“The pile of trash we’re standing in front of today is a solvable problem,” said Tracy Bowen, AFF Executive Director. “Thanks to the involvement of the Park Service and law enforcement, we’re off to a good start. The last piece in the puzzle is community involvement, both in helping to clean up, and keeping our communities clean. We hope to see record numbers of volunteers participate in the 20th Potomac River Watershed Cleanup on April 5 at hundreds of cleanup sites throughout the area.”
In the past twenty years, over 40,000 volunteers have removed more than 3 million pounds of trash from fields, forests, parking lots, shorelines, school yards, and all areas of the Potomac Watershed region that drain into the Potomac River.
Thousands of volunteers are still needed to participate in the 20th Potomac River Watershed Cleanup at hundreds of cleanup sites throughout the region. For more information, visit www.PotomacCleanup.org, or call 301-292-5665.
About the Alice Ferguson Foundation
The Alice Ferguson Foundation (www.fergusonfoundation.org) conducts environmental education programs for students at its 330-acre Hard Bargain Farm facility along the Potomac River in Accokeek, Maryland. It founded and has coordinated the Potomac River Watershed Cleanups for the past 20 years to address the significant trash problem it has along its shoreline. AFF’s goal is to celebrate a Trash Free Watershed by 2013, and is spearheading the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, engaging elected officials and stakeholders throughout the region to work collaboratively toward this goal. For more information, please visit www.trashfreepotomac.org.