Making It Easy To Be Green
The Response To A Historic Weekend Clean Up Effort May Be The Beginning of A New Era In County Pride, Community Health
Last Updated: May 16 1:00 p.m.
By Raoul Dennis // Photography By Frank Solomon
They didn’t know each other at all but they were sitting under a breezy tent chewing tasty food and chatting like members at a family reunion.
Like dozens of other people at the Prince George’s “Growing Green With Pride” post-clean up barbeque May 4, Mariama Whalen and her daughter, Siloam Dnwuchehekna, 16, bonded with Mark Falzone and his wife, Robin Hamilton through a singular experience that made them “family.”
They had good reason to feel a bond – and to be ready to eat.
Starting for many as early as 6 a.m., they were part of a massive effort: There were over 2,200 participants in the clean-up campaign on May 4. There were 95 organizations involved, 23 schools and 191 individuals engaged with “Growing Green with Pride Day” efforts, according to county leaders.
That’s not all. Fire, EMS and police were also working with “Growing Green” along with dozens of agencies. The county reports that: “The event planning committee consisted of representatives from Office of the County Executive, Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T), Department of the Environment, The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Office of Community Relations, Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement and Prince George’s County Public Schools. Other county agencies supported [the] efforts and/or participated in the clean-up. The State Highway Administration (SHA) also participated in a clean-up along state roadways in the county.”
It paid off: In all, DPW&T staff reported collecting 43 tons of litter/debris (86,000 pounds of litter/debris) and residents gathered over 8,625 pounds of trash around the county – that’s 350 large garbage bags.
In past County-wide clean-up events, DPW&T averaged around 20+ tons (40,000 pounds of litter and debris collected) . “The weight tickets received at the Landfill confirmed the amount of waste removed. The removal of over 40 tons of litter and illegal dumping by volunteers in a single day’s effort is an outstanding accomplishment.” said Deputy Manager for Strategic Operations, Office of County Executive, Linda M. Turner.
To prepare for the day, the county distributed thousands of packages of clean-up supplies including litter grabbers (1,500), trash bags (50 cases), safety vests (2,100) and gloves to all volunteers.
For many, including the four residents gathered together for the first time under a post clean-up picnic tent, it truly was the start of something big.
“I can’t remember ever doing this for my community before this,” says Whalen whose mother hailed from the Landover area of the county. But she recognized that the litter problem had grown in her neighborhood and around Prince George’s and she was frustrated with it. Whalen was pleased when County Executive Alsobrooks decided to take on the issue and was inspired by that leadership to get involved. “We all took time out of our Saturday – the richest day of the week,” Whalen mused. “It was great.”
She said that her team extracted three bags of litter and garbage in a very small area knowing that the trash would likely pile up again by the end of the month but that this is where change starts.
“But we know that we did the right thing,” Whalen said her daughter, Siloam, reflected.
And that’s the hope. Residents and leaders alike are banking on a change in thinking about the county as a place to take pride in.
Feel The Green
“We just met each other here for the first time,” said Whalen of her neighbors Mark and Robin who were among thousands of people who took part in the county-wide clean up and beautification led by the Angela Alsobrooks Administration and scores of leaders, county groups and agencies.
It’s just the kind of thing that led Mark and Robin to purchase a home in Prince George’s. They see the county as a growing jurisdiction forging a future that befits a young professional couple. A clean-up effort that brought people from all walks together to claim the streets and yards and parks, leads to an elevation in quality of living and more.
“There were 15 - 20 people helping in our area,” Falzone says of the team who signed up to participate in his neighborhood near the Park at Addison Metro (they partnered with residents of Brighton Place). He is the president of the Park at Addison Metro Homeowners Association.
The couple is in contrast to Whalen who was born and raised in Prince George’s County and they are convinced that events like the clean-up and the upcoming opening of the Rollins Avenue Park will make a tremendous difference in upgrading the look and care for the neighborhood he and Hamilton have bought their new home in.
“One of the worst areas we were in today was Rollins Avenue,” Falzone says. “The most concentrated area of litter is where the new park is going to be because it’s all empty space right now. County Council Vice Chair Rodney Streeter had been fighting to get the park funded and it should get started late this summer. If it’s well managed by the parks department and the park police are patrolling it, it’s going to become a lot cleaner and it’s going to be a major amenity for Prince George’s County,” he says.
Falzone says it becomes an organic solution to the litter problem.
“People will come to play basketball or to use the cookout pits. They will use the walking trail or the community garden or the dog park. It will get a lot of foot traffic to help manage itself,” he says.
Think Clean, Live Clean
Residents and leaders who get involved with projects like “Growing Green with Pride” believe in the long-term strategy to change attitudes in order to change the actions of all Prince Georgians.
“When people have pride in their community, they are going to take better care of it,” said County Council member Jolene Ivey (D-District 5) as she worked with residents to clean and beautify the Palmer Park façade and surrounding area including Cooper Lane. “It’s important that we do it. One resident approached me this morning sorry that he missed this today but says he works on cleaning every day. That’s the important thing. This work shouldn’t be just a special occasion,” says the Cheverly resident.
Donny Arrington, who has lived in Hyattsville for 28 years, sees the value in the process and the plan as he worked cleaning and planting new flowers.
“I’m willing to put my time into other communities to show that I have that same commitment to my community,” he says. “We have some commitments from our county executive and our county council and so we will see change over time.”
Robin Hamilton says all it takes is a spark.
“People really take pride in our neighborhood,” she says. “We had someone from the county come through and said to me, ‘I can see you are very invested in your community.’ I think once people see that example, it starts something.”
Whalen adds: “When you look around here today, you see adults and children, different classes of people, different ethnic groups – we are all here together right now,” she says of the diversity at Watkins Park in the aftermath of the clean-up. “There is a sense of solidarity right now. Our children see this. It’s a community affair. It’s everybody’s responsibility.”
The winners of the biggest litter collectors for the day using PGCLitterTRAK: John H. Bane Elementary School: 50 bags; New Carrollton Green Team: 36 Bags; The Denney House: 35 Bags
County residents are encouraged to use the County’s PGCLitterTRAK App in their weekly home activity.
Watch this space for updates