Each spring, for many years now, I wonder who will take the initiative to clean up the roadsides on the highways leading in and out of the northeast Avalon metropolitan area. Each year, I am disappointed that nothing is done, disappointment that grows in pace with the growing piles of litter.
Perhaps the litter has been there so long, people just don’t see it anymore. It’s naturalized, become part of the scenery.
Or perhaps each level of government is biding its time, waiting to see if another will kick itself into action and clean up the mess. Volunteers like me can only do so much. The mess is now so tremendous that it really requires a full team of people and many days, if not weeks, of attention.
The roadsides, ditches and medians are filled not only with the regular refuse that people toss out their windows, like coffee cups, fast-food bags and windshield-wash bottles, but also with things like sheets of plastic and large pieces of styrofoam (perhaps fallen from passing trucks or blown in from the industrial parks). You’ll also see the stuff that people who are too lazy to go to our beautiful and user-friendly regional waste management facility discard: mattresses, televisions and armchairs are just a few of the items I’ve seen on one stretch of highway. What shocks me more than the inaction of our governments is the apparent reality that no one seems offended by this.
Do we not deserve better? Does anyone realize that all these manufactured materials pollute the ground and, in turn, the water we drink or the fish and the berries we eat?
What we need is co-ordinated action among all levels of government. Why can’t the Town of Conception Bay South, the City of Mount Pearl, the City of St. John’s and the provincial government get together and co-operate on a regional strategy for collecting garbage and doing regular sweeps on the Outer Ring Road, Pitts Memorial Drive and the Manuels Access Road, three of the most heavily used access roads into and out of St. John’s and surrounding areas? Sadly, the mess is either the first or the last thing that tourists travelling by car see.
This weekend, we are receiving visitors from various parts of Canada and the U.S. and, naturally, we want to show them the sights and do some hiking. Unfortunately, we have decided we must avoid the highways and instead take the “old way” to places like Bay Roberts, Cupids and Brigus as we are just too ashamed of the mess they will see along all the way, ashamed of how we can allow ourselves to create and live in such filth and ashamed of how it reflects on us as a people, as a province and what we value.
For all the talk about the province being on the road to prosperity, there’s one lesson our municipal and provincial leaders clearly have not learned: a key part of being prosperous is looking the part. But, then again, the nouveau riche never pull it off quite like the old money folk, do they?