Cleaning up Suffolk

Published 5:13 pm Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In late April, an army of people will spread out through the United States and set out to clean things up. This force will be armed with plastic bags, gloves and clipboards and will target the disturbing amount of litter clogging our roadsides, waterway and coastlines.

The Great American Cleanup, a mission of the Keep America Beautiful organization, has been organizing volunteer cleanup crews for more than a decade.

While in college, I first joined a cleanup crew in downtown Hampton for the annual event. Working in pairs, we collected the usual litter — cans, paper and plastic bags — out of a creekbed behind a Big Lots store, but we also found quite a few odd items. We found dolls, hoses, tires, tennis rackets, a bowling ball and two bicycles. It took four of us to rip a toilet out of the marshy ground. All the while, we recorded our findings for Keep America Beautiful, which later built reports to help inform the public about where our waste wound up.


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It was shocking to see how much had accumulated in just a year, and it was even more shocking to know that particular creek eventually emptied into the Chesapeake Bay. Without our work that day, all that junk would have been added to the already polluted bay.

Hampton Roads is unusual in that most of its waterways and tributaries end up in the Bay and eventually the ocean. The Great American Cleanup is especially important in our area, because we are the last resort. If we don’t collect the trash here, it will end up in the bay, cluttering and polluting a lifeline for many in our region.

One of the first things I learned about Suffolk was how beautiful it was. Waterways crisscross the city, providing gorgeous sunset views and more than a few opportunities for fishing and recreation. But I spent most of my first few months in the city on roadways driving to and from work. And I quickly noticed when there was a buildup of litter.

We’ve been named one of the top small cities in which to live, but the city’s appearance doesn’t always translate that message. If we hope to keep thriving as a community, we have to present the best image of our community possible.

Three groups are being organized in Suffolk to do their part on April 27. The projects will clean up Shingle Creek and sections of Bennett’s Pasture Road and King’s Highway. A few hours of your time will mean a better and more beautiful Suffolk.

If you want to make a difference in the community, visit to sign up as a volunteer with one the cleanup crews.