Cleaning up the Swamp

Published 8:43 pm Thursday, March 24, 2011

We’ve written several times recently on these pages about the negative impact that littering has on the community and the disrespect that is at the heart of the act — a disrespect for both the environment and for one’s fellow man.

And while a disappointing amount of litter is evident along roads and in other well-used public places each day, it is somehow even more distressing to find that it is not limited to the areas that man has built and etched his mark upon. Garbage dumped in nature preserves and other places that most folks would expect to be in something of a pristine condition represents a special affront to the senses, let alone the environment.

But there’s hardly a mountain trail, sandy beach or woods path that hasn’t been desecrated by some thoughtless, lazy bum who has left beer bottles, fast food packages or — almost unbelievably until one comes across it — dirty diapers to spoil the view and cause potential harm to the wildlife that call those areas home.

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And some of those places have been hit harder than others.

For many years, before the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was established by the federal government, some folks considered a portion of the swamp along Jericho Lane to be their personal garbage pit. It was, perhaps, especially easy to dump there, as it was out of the way, and there were few people who ventured into the area to see the results of all that dumping.

Ever since the federal government took control of the property and put people on duty there full time, that illegal dumping has slackened. And the installation of an electronic gate, along with a promise by the Refuge’s law enforcement officers to prosecute illegal dumpers whenever they can, should limit the new trash that appears in the swamp.

But a group of volunteers from the Suffolk-Nansemond chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America was unwilling to allow all that old garbage to just rot alongside Jericho Road. So members got together and did something about it. A one-day collection effort last Saturday resulted in two tons of old tires and other garbage being collected for hauling away to the regional landfill. It was the second time that the Ikes, as they are sometimes called, had collected trash along Jericho Road.

There will always be thoughtless, uncaring people among us. Fortunately, there are still those who care enough to work to erase the ugly evidence that the first group leaves behind.