ARNAUDVILLE – Community leaders from adjoining St. Martin and St. Landry parishes are addressing a problem that seems to have no easy solution: Litter. It’s everywhere, very visible and growing.
St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz, Keep St. Martin Beautiful director Jacques Privat, and Celeste Gomez, head of the St. Landry Parish Tourism Commission, were in attendance, along with many other community leaders and business people.
Privat explained the negative economic impact of the trash lining our streets and filling our bayous and the results from the cost of paying for cleaning our roads, ditches and bayous to the loss of potential business. He noted the loss of a large manufacturing company in the Covington/Mandeville area when an out-of-state CEO cut short his visit to the area, explaining to the mayor that his employees would not live in any area that had so much litter. In this man’s opinion, it reflected a lack of pride and progress in the community.
It was a “light bulb” moment for the mayor, who realized that part of the problem was that his citizens were so used to seeing trash in their streets, they literally didn’t notice the problem. The result was an increase in enforcement and an alliance with the local gardening club who had been fighting for years to clean up their town.
Sheriff Guidroz said his office will have zero tolerance for offenders. He said inmates on cleanup details will go through trash and attempt to identify the culprits from the contents. Washing machines and cars have identification numbers that can be traced to the owners.
The profile of the most common litterbug is a male between the ages of 15 – 29 living in a rural area.
Guidroz said a bottleneck in enforcement can come at the prosecution level where littering has to take a back seat to more serious crimes in the already crowded court system. A way around that, he said, might be the establishment of a “litter court.”
In Pointe Coupee Parish, described in news accounts as having a “litter epidemic,” officials will start a litter court later this year.
At the meeting here, Kristin Kordecki spoke movingly of floating down Bayou Teche and seeing everything from washing machines to machine parts filling the waterway and lining the banks. Arnaudville Alderman “Doc” Broussard called the bayous surrounding Arnaudville, “our town’s real treasures.” Celeste Gomez lamented the loss of the waterways as an opportunity for tourism through float trips, tours, canoe and kayak races and the loss of potential revenue for the towns lining the bayous.
Betty Roy, former CEO of the Arnaudville Area Chamber of Commerce – who had previously tried to form a coalition to fight the litter problem and had met with little success – said she feels the time is right to try again.
With grant money available from the federal government through the “Keep America Beautiful” program, Privat said St. Martin Parish had been able to make substantial inroads against the problem. Grant money paid for cigarette-disposal units at stores, which have seen a 75 percent reduction in cigarette litter, he said.
Citizens in St. Landry are already paying for trash pickup, which can be accessed by calling the St. Landry Solid Waste Commission at 826-5211. Justices of the peace and constables can go outside their jurisdictions to enforce anti-littering laws. They also receive a portion of any fines or fees collected.
One problem is that no one seems to want to offend his neighbors.
Despite the odds, the group is willing to devote their time to solving the problem. They will hold their next meeting on Saturday, March 7, at 9 a.m. at Cypress City Antiques on Highway 93 in Arnaudville. For more information contact Brandy Perdikis at 754-5316.