Let me lay it all out on the line. This city looks trashy. Quite literally - trashy. On a slow rainy afternoon several weeks ago, a co-worker and I struck up a conversation as we stared out our office windows towards US Highway 277.
Taking notice of the bits of plastic snagged in the grass, the fast-food cups and entire cardboard boxes floating down the culvert streams, we asked each other, "Who's responsible for this mess and why isn't it being cleaned up?" We tossed around scenarios about who the outdoor cleaning crew should be, whined about how we felt the garbage was spoiling our view, ridiculed townsfolk and business owners for their filthy habits and wholeheartedly judged the city itself for allowing it to continue. Swapping stories of other towns in other states where we've previously lived, we compared the levels of street-side cleanliness. Elgin, unfortunately, didn't rank very high in our opinion. Not once has my co-worker or I ever noticed a single soul picking up the litter-strewn about the front of the office building where we spend the majority of our workday.
Ever since that discussion it's as if my eyes have been glued to every little shred of garbage that's caught along the road edges as I drive through and around this town. Obsessed, my brain has been taking mental notes of it all and filing it away. I remember spying a plastic HARIBO gummy bear package, discarded beer cans and an empty can of Copenhagen dipping tobacco resting in the ditch across from Osborn Park. I've seen various fast food wrappers surrounding the local restaurant chains. And no one could miss the lineup of plastic grocery bags creating a wave of white and yellow as they cling to livestock fences on First Street, flapping in the wind. Really Elgin? There are numerous reasons for trash to accumulate in areas around town, I get that. But the question still remains, "Who is going to clean it up and dispose of it?" Now I'm not pulling out my activist or environmentalist card here, mostly because I don't have one. I'm simply stating the obvious - our city appears to have a bit of a litter issue. I'm betting most towns do, but somehow, someway, it must be addressed or it will only continue to get worse. And if a problem exists, then surely there must be a solution. So, I delved into doing some research hoping to find the answer to the question my co-worker and I had pondered on that dreary day not too long ago.
I called the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and, as politely as possible, asked if they were responsible for trash control along the highways passing through Elgin. Not us, was their reply. So, I called the mayor and asked the same question. The response revealed a lack of manpower, meaning at this time the city is incapable of tackling the ongoing responsibility. But what about us Elginites? Are we not manpower? Do we not love and take pride in this city? Of course, we do. Last time I checked we love to rally around a good cause, endlessly supporting our schools, our kids, our businesses and our community as a whole. So, Elgin, to fix the current trash situation, I challenge you to a battle of sorts. A battle against the used cans, windblown plastics and discarded cardboard littering the roadways throughout our charming town. I urge you to take pride in our streets, our properties, our ditches... and clean up this mess! Willing to do my part, I've decided to participate in the 2020 Great American Cleanup. I ask that you join me to see who can collect the most street-side trash. If I know Elgin, and I think I do, I've never known a community neighborhood, organization or business that would pass up a friendly, fun competition for a good cause. And this my friends, is a good cause.
Through "Keep Oklahoma Beautiful" I will register to collect trash caught along city streets, US Highway 277 and State Highway 17 in Elgin for half day on Saturday, April 18. I encourage you to rise early that weekend, throw on some comfortable shoes and a pair of stretchy pants if you prefer - no judgement, then don a pair of gloves and meet me out on the streets to commence with an epic trash collection competition. I'll be waiting for you, trash bags in hand, as we take back our pride by cleaning up our city.