Joyce Grant is very upset. When I called the Shandaken town clerk to pay my water bill by credit card, she gave me an earful. “Would you please tell people to stop dumping garbage on the street? It looks awful, and then the town or the state has to take care of it.”
In fact, Grant spent time on Friday evenings last summer picking up trash on High Street, at the Bridge Street entrance to Phoenicia. I live on High Street, so when I go walking, I often return home with beer bottles, styrofoam containers, Dunkin Donuts coffee cups all the way from Kingston. I wonder over and over — how can people desecrate the beauty of this landscape they are either living amidst or visiting?
I asked Grant if the trash problems is getting worse as tourism ratchets up in recent years. “No, it’s just that with the Scenic Byway,” she said, “we’re getting more conscious of it.” Now that Route 28 has been officially designated such, it’s being advertised by the state for its beauty. Grant doesn’t want visitors who drive through Shandaken to find the view marred by litter, broken-down couches, and garbage strewn by bears. And did you know that roadside signs are illegal unless posted on one’s own property? Just another form of trash.
These problems are fixable. Waste Management, one of the local trash haulers, has recognized that bears are a local problem and is considering offering its customers a bearproof rollaway container. The town has a sample at the recycling center behind the town hall if people want to check it out. “It snaps down in front,” said Grant, “and you poke a finger in each side to open it. Bears can open car doors, but they don’t have fingers.” To encourage Waste Management to invest in bearproofing, call them at 845-338-8011.
The hauler may charge extra for the bearproof cans, but it’s better than being slapped with a fine. “If a bear drags your garbage to an empty lot, you’re still responsible,” said Grant. “People think, oh, it’s not on my property any more, it’s not my problem — but town law says it’s still yours. And the building inspector enforces it.”
The Adopt-a-Highway program helps maintain the roads, but not all adopters are consistent about picking up trash on their assigned stretches of highway. She and her husband, Brian, and cousin Teresa took over the mile of Route 28 by the town hall because the previous adopter, the Shandaken Republican Club, “no longer really exists,” she explained. The Adopt-a-Highway sign now says, “In Memory of Supervisor Neil Grant,” Teresa’s father.
Anyone can join the program as an adopter by contacting the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) and filling out some paperwork. The contract is for two years, with clean-ups encouraged four times a year. DOT provides orange safety gear and garbage bags, and their staff picks up the filled bags. And you (or your business) get your name on the sign by your own section of highway. With a group of friends, the clean-up process becomes a socially conscious social occasion.
Last summer, Grant got a crew together to clean up trash left at the fishing access point by the cemetery in Allaben. “After one weekend we found propane tanks, food cartons, food, bottles, you name it,” she recalled. She’s hoping people will be more respectful this year, but there have already been couches dumped at two places along Route 28. She pointed out that the Hunter and Woodstock transfer stations accept discarded furniture for a (fairly) small fee.
As for the lawn signs, Grant said they are not permitted on the roadsides or on the grass around the eagle statue at the western entrance to Phoenicia. “They will be taken down by the zoning department,” she said. However, signs are allowed on the triangle of lawn at the eastern entrance to town, where visitors are greeted by the big “Welcome to Phoenicia” board, with the painting of a leaping fish and a tuber on the Esopus Creek.
“These are our mountains,” Grant said, “and we love them.”
The town seeks volunteers to help keep the roads free of litter. Contact the town clerk’s office at 845-688-5004. For more information on Adopt-a-Highway, call Dave Corrigan or Tom Story at NYSDOT 845-331-5533. See also https://www.dot.ny.gov/programs/adopt-highway.