UNION — On Tuesday afternoon, the Union County Tourism Commission’s Clean-Up Committee launched what members hope will be a massive beautification campaign.
Tourism commission chair Curtiss Hunter, who is also a member of the clean-up committee, said she hopes this beautification project will catch on and encourage pride in Union County.
Committee member Gigi Wicker-Garner said she and her husband, John, walk around the Union County Dragway — which is near their home — for exercise.
“When we started walking, we took it upon ourselves to pick up trash,” Wicker-Garner said, adding that she and her husband filled numerous bags with trash picked up from the side of the road.
The Santuc resident said she can name three spots between her home and the City of Union that look like a trash pile.
“People just don’t seem to care,” said Julia Garmon, who is also a member of the committee. “How do we get people to care?”
Wicker-Garner summed up why the abundance of litter is a problem for the tourism commission.
“Why would someone want to come into Union with a new business, or to live, or to visit?” she asked.
Union County Public Works and Recycling Director John Gibson was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, and he said one problem is that many local residents are unaware of existing laws regarding litter, which could result in fines up to $1,000 when enforced.
Gibson said the best place to start would be to enforce the law — already in place — requiring people to put a tarp over loads of trash going into local recycling centers. Gibson said the law applies to everyone, including pick-up trucks.
“If you could just get people to tarp their vehicles, you would be surprised at what it would do for us,” Gibson said.
Gibson — who formerly worked with Spartanburg County — said when a clean-up campaign was launched there, the number of officers controlling litter went from three to six, and each officer was assigned a district in which to enforce the law. He said it began with a grace period in which violators received warnings, but eventually, officers began issuing fines ranging from $467 to $1,000. Gibson mentioned that in some cases, violators were given the option of having their fine reduced by as much as $400 in exchange for cleaning up a roadside.
Union County Council member Frank Hart was also in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, and he said he had already heard negative feedback regarding the requirement of tarps for trucks hauling garbage. Hart said if the campaign was presented to — and approved by — county council, he would be willing to donate $500 of his district’s community development funds toward the purchase of tarps to be distributed at local recycling centers.
Hart also said there were numerous recommendations that could be made by the committee.
“One might be to post an officer at one of the recycling centers on a Saturday,” he said.
Hunter asked Gibson if there were grants available for such projects, and he said that could be a possibility and directed her to Palmetto Pride and Keep America Beautiful.
The clean-up committee will meet once more before the next Union County Council meeting, and everyone who is interested in cleaning up Union County is invited to attend. The meeting will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, in the meeting/training room located on the basement floor of City Hall in Union.
“We’re looking to make Union County presentable to businesses, visitors and residents,” Hunter said. “It can be a beautiful place if we can just clean it up.”
Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234.