North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

'Litter Wranglers' help clean local roads

 

August 30, 2017 | View PDF

Andrew Hines

Snohomish County Public Works employee Josh Davis picks up litter as part of the county's "Litter Wranglers" pilot program on Lakewood's Frank Waters Road on Aug. 22.

Snohomish County has been trying out a new program specifically designed to clean up litter around county roads this summer.

The four-month "Litter Wranglers" pilot program has cleared litter from at least 10 road miles each week, with some weeks as many as 25 road miles cleared.

About 3,600 bags of litter have been picked up "and I think that speaks to the need of a program like this," said Snohomish County Solid Waste Director Matt Zybas.

Those roads include county areas surrounding Marysville and Arlington, including major roads that they have worked like Marine Drive NE, according to Matt Phelps, communications specialist with the Snohomish County Public Works.

Zybas said that the program was started in response to increasing concerns from residents.

"We were receiving complaints about litter on the road and they had been increasing a bit over the last few years," he said.

The program is different from the county's normal process in that they have a dedicated seasonal crew focused on just litter, when normally the crews that do cleanup have other responsibilities.

"This also relieves our road maintenance crews so they can just focus on maintaining our county infrastructure," said Zybas.

Removing litter helps make the county streets look better, he said.

"Part of why we do this is just to make sure we have a nice environment for people to live in," said Zybas.

In addition, keeping streets clean also helps prevent more litter as well, he said, because people are less likely to litter or illegally dump on a road that is well-kept.

"Sometimes when too much litter gathers, that just encourages people to begin illegal dumping," said Zybas.

So far the program "seems to be well-received by the public," said Zybas.

The public appreciates the timely response to cleaning streets, he said.

"They are supportive of the program because we are able to get out onto the road quickly to remove the litter," said Zybas.

The Litter Wranglers program is meant to supplement the county's Adopt-A-Road program and tends to focus on roads that can't be part of Adopt-A-Road.

"Some areas are very dangerous and we can't allow the public to clean those roads up," said Zybas.

High volumes of traffic, windy roads and bad sight lines make cleaning up some areas more dangerous.

The county workers that are part of this program have certified flaggers and county signs which help them work.

Andrew Hines

Snohomish County Public Works employee Thomas Lehman looks for litter as part of the county's "Litter Wranglers" pilot program on Lakewood's Frank Waters Road on Aug. 22.

"We want to keep a safe environment for our workers," said Zybas. "We have to sensitive of the safety out there for our employees."

Zybas said that workers won't go out in heavy fog or rain because of safety issues, but the summer program hasn't had many days like that so far, he said.

The Litter Wranglers is a pilot program this year and Zybas said after it ends, the county will look at it.

"We will evaluate it in the fall and look at if it was a worthy endeavor," he said, and if the county wants to keep the program they will look at if they want to make changes for next summer.

The public is encouraged to alert the county of any roads that need to be cleaned up.

Zybas said that the program prioritizes the most important roads first, but is still able to get out to most locations within a week of being notified by a resident.

Locals can report a location by emailing contact.pwrm@co.snohomish.wa.us or by calling 425-388-7500.

 

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