With a sudden break in his schedule, Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson drove to see the parking lot where people park, eat their lunch, and toss their trash next to a creek.
He didn’t like it, and said so. Here’s the problem and how to fix it.
You can help by reporting trash or other problems through Valdosta’s Click ‘n’ Fix app.
He had not seen this mess before, on St. Augustine Road, next to Hightower Creek.
This tree line is an actual wind catch as well.
And look at the trash.
Every bit of that is going to make it down to the creek eventually, unless we come along and do some kind of a cleanup on this.
And we also got to figure out a goat somewhere along this stretch, because this is going to continue.
He means a WaterGoat trash trap like the one downstream on Sugar Creek near the Withlacoochee River.
That one Valdosta paid for six months ago, after two years of politics.
I keep hearing rumors the city is going to buy two more of those, presumably for Three Mile Branch and Two Mile Branch, but nothing has appeared on the City Council agenda.
Back at the St. Augustine Road parking lot, the Mayor continued:
This is just inconsiderate people for the most part. And a very large parking lot.
I noted, “Well, if there was a trash can here, they’d at least have a place to put it.”
A couple of them along this stretch.
And unfortunately, we’re going in the wrong direction, because I can’t tell you how many times in the last, I don’t know, four or five months, we’ve witnessed people open their door, set down their styrofoam and their trash, and think nothing of it.
Here’s an example from this same location from August 30, 2022.
The Mayor continued:
That somebody’s going to magically pick it up out of the road or the parking lot they just set it in. It’s unbelievable. So education is the key.
I agreed, “Well, that’s true, but also over on that two acres that used to be full of trash over on Barack Obama and Ricardo, that’s much cleaner now, due to, thank you, Stormwater Division, and there’s a trash can right there by the Adopt-A-Spot sign, that people use.
The Mayor responded:
Woa! Good Call.
Alright. Let’s run.
It was raining, as you can see.
Here is the video:
He drove us by the detention pond next to the parking lot.
We could see through the fence the drain structure that the private landowner had fixed so it no longer sends trash straight through an open pipe into the creek.
The landowner did that after Valdosta’s Stormwater Division asked them to. I complimented Stormwater for that at the time.
Then we drove up to the buildings, where there are many trash cans under the roof in front of the storefronts.
The Mayor noted there was no trash near those trash cans.
But they are way uphill from the trash collecting down by the creek edge of the parking lot. Nobody is going to walk uphill 500 feet from the bottom of the parking lot to the nearest trash can by the storefronts.
By the Walt Disney 30-step rule, people will walk about 30 steps to a trash can, which is about 60 to 75 feet.
I pointed out to the Mayor that Valdosta ordinances actually require strategically placed trash cans by the number of parking spaces. He asked for the wording. Here it is (emphasis added), City Ordinance Chapter 82 – Solid Waste:
82-1.(b)(9) Commercial sites with on-site parking shall, at a minimum, have its parking area cleaned or swept as needed to prevent an accumulation of litter and to maintain a neat and orderly appearance. Furthermore, said sites shall provide and maintain litter receptacles that are strategically placed throughout the parking lot for individuals using same to properly deposit litter and other refuse. The number of receptacles shall be determined as follows:
One receptacle for establishments with one to 25 parking spaces;
Two receptacles for establishments with 26 to 50 parking spaces;
One additional receptacle for each additional 100 parking spaces at any location.
This is also not just about litter from the fast food outlets in that parking lot. Previously we’ve found trash from Kentucky Fried Chicken in front of Tractor Supply in that same parking lot.
Where we found that KFC trash is marked by the red ellipse on this map. The nearest KFC is at the red marker towards the left. Probably somebody bought lunch there, drove to the subject parking lot to get something, and ate lunch in the parking lot, tossing the wrappers. From where it can blow or wash down into Hightower Creek, which runs into Sugar Creek, down to the Withlacoochee River.
Map: KFC to Tractor Supply to Hightower Creek, 2022-03-21
in the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail.
Follow the red line on the map to see how trash goes down Hightower Creek to Sugar Creek to the Withlacoochee River.
Which explains how we’ve found KFC cups in Sugar Creek down near the river.
Trash that came from somewhere else is the responsibility of the parking lot owner once it’s in the parking lot. See again Valdosta Code of Ordinances Chapter 82 – SOLID WASTE (emphasis added):
Sec. 82-1. – Littering.(b)(5) The owner, occupant and lessee of all property, including, but not limited to, parking lots, not otherwise described herein, jointly and severally are required to remove all litter from any source, from their property and to place same in appropriate containers. Vacant lots, borders, embankments, fences, walls, driveways and sidewalks shall be kept free of litter.
For more about Valdosta’s Code of Ordinances, see: Litter in the City of Valdosta: Sources and Solutions 2021-09-10.
Sure, people should not litter.
But parking lot owners should not make it difficult for people to discard trash.
People shouldn’t speed, either.
But the same parking lot has speed bumps to decrease speeding.
Putting some trash cans down by the tree line would reduce littering, just like speed bumps reduce speeding.
If that doesn’t do enough, the parking lot owner could do what the Flying J at I-75 Exit 2 did: put up a chain link fence. Like the one already around the detention pond.
For that matter, isn’t following the Ordinances a requirement of business license renewal?
Thanks to Lowndes County Code Enforcement for fixing the trash problem at Exit 2. And for doing it without complaining about the people who reported it, or saying it was somebody else’s problem. It took three years, but they got it done.
When will Valdosta Stormwater Division and City Marshals step up and fix Valdosta’s trash problem?
Thanks to Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson for volunteering to go see this trash problem, for driving out there, for being on video, and for asking followup questions.
Thanks to Bobby McKenzie for the speed bump analogy, for discovering this parking lot trash problem, for educating the parking lot owner to where we thought the problem was fixed a year ago, for getting the storm drain fixed, and for following up.
Thanks to Valdosta City Council Andy Gibbs, the Mayor, and the rest of the Council, for the purchase of the one WaterGoat so far
Thanks to Russell Allen McBride for cleaning out the one WaterGoat and a prototype boom before that. Thanks to his relatives and Suzy Hall for assisting. Thanks to Richard Hardy and Public Works for supplying trash cans there. And thanks to Russell for organizing some Withlacoochee River cleanups, including one you can join this Saturday.
Thanks to WWALS Science Committee Chair Tom Potter for assisting with the WWALS prototype boom even earlier.
Thanks to all the volunteers on WWALS cleanups in town and on creeks and rivers.
Thanks to Phil Hubbard and the rest of the chainsaw crew on the chainsaw cleanups.
Thanks to all the others whom I may have forgotten to mention.
Thanks to Valdosta Stormwater Director Angela Bray and her crew for some improvement in the trash situation. Thanks to Valdosta City Marshalls for some followup. There is more to be done.
Fixing this trash problem by adding trash traps such as WaterGoats, trash cans, and fences, plus enforcing Valdosta Ordinances, would probably cost less than fixing one sewer line. I look forward to the City of Valdosta getting on with it. Perhaps if Mayor and Council vote some direction, that will happen.
Then we can move farther up and work on stopping the trash producers from making and using so much of that single-use packaging.
You can help by reporting Valdosta problems through Click ‘n’ Fix.
Floridians: you can use Click ‘n’ Fix whenever you see something in Valdosta. And you can join us on cleanups. What we stop upstream does not wash downstream into Florida.
For problems elsewhere, here’s how to report: https://wwals.net/report/.
For more on the trash issue, see https://wwals.net/issues/trash
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®