Often, people do not realize the impact of their actions — or inaction — when it comes to issues such as litter prevention and community improvement.
I want to tell you about the experiences of several cities in Arkansas that have changed the look of their communities and improved their quality of life. These communities’ stories were shared by Keep Arkansas Beautiful. Everyone who is concerned about economic development in Liberty County can learn from these stories.
After their communities lost more than 1,000 jobs when two industrial plants closed four years ago, Conway County community and business leaders became determined to clean up and beautify the area.
A study conducted by a nationally known plant-location consultant found that Morrilton, Conway County’s largest city, didn’t “show well” to industrial prospects. This precipitated the community leaders’ decision to focus on cleaning up and revitalizing the county seat. Other towns in the county were inspired to do the same.
Conway County residents took action by launching an annual litter pickup campaign. The volunteer pickup crews collected more than 2,000 tons of litter and debris. Owners of Morrilton buildings also made improvements — from fresh coats of paint to complete renovations. Volunteers landscaped and maintained flower beds along Morrilton’s main thoroughfare. Even youth in the area got involved. Students at Morrilton High School took part in a landscaping project and handled other improvements to beautify the district’s schools. Approximately 400 local volunteers came together to complete the beautification project.
“The efforts of Conway County and Morrilton speak directly to the impact anti-littering and beautification programs and projects can make in a community, and the importance industrial site evaluators put on the overall cleanliness of a community,” said Robert Phelps, director of Keep Arkansas Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. “Litter is not just an environmental problem. It is also an economic development issue. If you don’t believe it, just look at Wynne for further proof.”
The community of Wynne landed an auto-parts plant when the site-selection committee noticed how litter-free the town was. Wynne wasn’t even on the committee’s original list of towns to consider; selection committee members just happened to be passing through on their way to other Delta towns up for consideration.
Several years ago, the city of Prescott included anti-litter and beautification programs in its long-term vision for economic development. The city and chamber of commerce partnered to improve the community and so far have completed the development of a downtown park, installed a unique welcome sign, added pole decorations on lighting fixtures around downtown and initiated a litter-pickup campaign.
“By allowing litter in your community, you might as well put up a billboard that says you don’t care about your community’s future,” Phelps said. “If we don’t work to prevent litter, then efforts at economic development will be strained. Wynne knew it. Conway County and Prescott are putting the theory into play … We all have a role to play in building up our communities into the future.
“The absence of litter in a community really does make a difference, and each individual can influence a community’s future by not littering and not tolerating those who do,” Phelps continued. “Building up a community really does take everyone and other than not contributing to the litter, the litter hotline really is the easiest and most effective role an individual can play in educating their neighbors about litter.
“And last but not least, existing industry and businesses have a stake in preventing litter in the community. Businesses and commercial property owners should keep their buildings and grounds free of litter. They can provide ashtrays and trash receptacles for employees and patrons so they don’t dispose of their cigarette butts and other trash on the ground. They can also plant and maintain flowers in pots or beds on the site and keep the exterior painted and windows clean,” he said.
We know the impact that an attractive and clean community can have on our welfare here in Liberty County. That is what the Win-dex Awards and other improvement projects are all about. Nominations for the Quarterly Win-dex Awards are due by Sept. 30. The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce sponsors the Win-dex Awards recognition program with Keep Liberty Beautiful to honor businesses in our county that put forth extra effort. Help us give these local businesses the recognition they deserve. Any business can maintain a litter-free and attractive appearance.
Nomination forms are available at KLB or at the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce office. You also can call 368-4445 or 880-4888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a form. Thank you to all the local businesses in our area that are looking out for all of us by keeping clean and beautiful establishments.
Upcoming KLB activities
• Win-dex Awards nominations for attractive business of the quarter: We are accepting nominations through Sept. 30. For more information, email email@example.com or 880-4888.
• Annual St. Catherines beach cleanup: Saturday, Sept. 24. For information, call KLB at 880-4888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.