Litter Letters encourage pride in community

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The first Litter Letters have been placed at the Washington Parish Courthouse, encouraging residents to take pride in their community and keep its roadways clean.

The 6-foot tall PRIDE went up last week, as part of Keep Washington Parish Beautiful’s Litter Letters project.

The idea for the project came from Rachel Hatley, currently on leave from teaching graphic design at Loyola University. Choctaw Landfill solid waste supervisor Troy Barber said Hatley joined Keep Washington Parish Beautiful with the intention of writing a paper on environmental issues.

In the midst of Hatley becoming part of the group, she was having a litter problem in front of her Louisiana Highway 430 home.

“She started picking up litter every day, and every day there was more,” Barber said. “So she came up with the idea to build these letters.”

The first letters were 2 feet tall and made out of chicken wire. Hatley stuffed the letters full of the trash she had collected and placed them by the road on her property. She brought the idea to Keep Washington Parish Beautiful, and the group got on board with the project, Barber said.

The group received a $3,000 grant from Keep Louisiana Beautiful to fund the project. Then Barber spoke with Gerald Lebo, assistant warden at Rayburn Correctional Center, about having the offenders construct the letters, and Warden Bobby Tanner gave the OK.

“We bought the chicken wire and the reinforcement steel and welding supplies and the things that are needed to construct it, and we delivered it to the prison,” Barber said.

Prisoners were responsible for the construction, and Barber brought the completed letters to the landfill.

A total of 26,000 pounds of litter was collected during the Great American Cleanup the week of March 24. Several church youth groups, 4-H groups, a Bogalusa group, two crews furnished by the Sheriff’s Office and three crews furnished by Rayburn Correctional Center took part in the cleanup, and Barber said he was satisfied with the amount of litter collected.

“That’s over 13 tons of garbage we took off the streets,” he said.

That litter was put in a special place in the landfill, and Barber used it to stuff the Litter Letters. He said Keep Washington Parish Beautiful wanted to make a statement by using litter collected on the parish highways.

The word pride was selected for the courthouse Litter Letters by Parish President Richard Thomas. Mayor Wayne Fleming selected the word pride for both of the words that will be installed in Franklinton, and Mayor Charles Mizell chose pride, respect and think for Bogalusa’s Litter Letters.

It takes approximately two weeks to complete each 6-foot tall word, Barber said. Therefore, within three to four weeks, one word each will be installed in Franklinton and Bogalusa. All the letters should be complete within 10 to 12 weeks, depending on how many other projects the Rayburn Correctional Center crew has going on at that time.

The reaction to the first Litter Letters has been amazing, Barber said. People stopped in the middle of the street to take pictures as the word was being installed, and a number of people have called asking questions about the project, he said.

“I’m hoping that more people get on board with us and help send a message to the public,” he said, discussing how the project aims to increase awareness.

Though the Great American Cleanup has officially wrapped up, Barber said the beautification effort is ongoing in Bogalusa.

“I’m glad Bogalusa is stepping up and extending theirs,” he said.

Barber asks, however, that participants not put tires in the dumpsters that have been placed throughout the city. People who are not able make it to the landfill to dispose of their tires can leave them beside the dumpsters, he said.

For more information about the project, call the landfill at 848-2920.