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Local group working hard to keep Newton clean


Carelessly scattered around a neighborhood or negligently tossed out a car window, litter an affect more than make an area unsightly.

In neighborhoods, it is a sign of negligence, a lack of respect for other residents, and, according to Laurie Riley, Executive Director of Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful (KCNB), as much a sign of abandonment, physically, if not emotionally, as broken windows.

“When people see litter in an area, they see it as an indicator that people don’t care about where they live,” she said.
The theory, pioneered in New York City in the 1980s, states that the landscape of a community communicates on sight what the residents think about their environment. A neighborhood that is maintained signals that people care and criminal behavior is not tolerated.

The reverse is true when a community does not keep itself clean.

“We’re trying to get people to understand why it’s important to keep a community clean,” Riley said. “Cleanliness and beauty foster economic growth and community pride.”

Riley’s words echo a statement made by Covington City Council member Hawnethia Williams, Post 2 West at the city’s last council meeting. (See story “Volunteers to install smoke detectors in 300 homes,” at

“I’d like to see more unity in our community by taking pride in our community,” she said. “Some of the things I see that shows a lack of concern for our community, our neighbors. Now that the weather is finally warming up, it’s a great time to do some spring cleaning — not just in our homes, but in our community.

“Aren’t we tired of people who don’t seem to get the good neighbor thing?” she asked.

In mid-March, KCNB kicked off the “Great American Clean Up” campaign in Newton County, inviting community volunteers to pick up trash along roadsides. The campaign continues through May 31, Riley said, and KCNB will provide resources and supplies when people want to work together to clean up a neighborhood.

An affiliate of Keep Georgia Beautiful and Keep America Beautiful, KCNB focuses on litter prevention, beautification, recycling and water pollution prevention. Detective Seymour Green, a puppet, is used for programs offered at schools throughout the county.

On April 25, KCNB offers free paper shredding to Newton County residents, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., at the Newton County Library parking lot, 7116 Floyd Street. People can bring up to five boxes of documents to be shredded.

“It’s easier to keep the community clean then it is to hold a big clean up,” Riley said.

To learn more about KCNB’s resources, programs and campaigns, visit the website at

Cleaning river ways

Rivers Alive and members of The Yellow River Water Trail group spend time throughout the year cleaning up the river ways.

“The water trail runs through four counties — Gwinnett, DeKalb, Rockdale and Newton,” said Newton County resident Tonya Bechtler. “We’ve been cleaning the river for years.

Some members do it monthly, she said, some quarterly and some annually. Kimberly Brown of the Porterdale Yak Club in Porterdale cleans an area of the Yellow River monthly.

“Most of what we clean up is storm water runoff,” she said. “The litter people throw on the roads washes down into the rivers and waterways. The problems we have are plastics and Styrofoam. The problem is that we are a disposable culture and out of sight, out of mind.

“People don’t think that all of that flows into the river,” she said.

Yet, she said, the floating pile of trash has been built, in part, by county residents, though few communities in the metro area are blameless. “The South, Alcovy and Yellow rivers are all within Newton County,” she said.

Bechtler said the litter is toxic to wild life habitat. For example, she said, small plastic pieces of trash get wrapped around turtles, otters, fish, snakes and other wild life.

“They deserve a clean place to live,” she said. “We are good stewards. We’re not trashy folks. It’s pathetic to send trash downstream to our neighbors.

“Do unto those downstream as we would have those upstream do unto us,” she added.

“Every time we have a big Rivers Alive clean up, we probably clean out a ton of trash,” she said. “Literally a dump truck full of trash. We pull that out of the river twice a year.”

For less formal cleanup days, Bechtler said, the Yellow River Water Trail group uses their social media page,, to organize local kayakers, who collect trash while paddling down river. Last weekend, she said, the trails members paddled down the river last weekend.

“There’s a lot of trash on the river,” she said.