This year's annual PRIDE Spring Cleanup begins April 8, and Lonnie Saylor, Harlan County's PRIDE coordinator, said help is needed.
“The smallest effort, whether as a volunteer or pledging not to litter during the PRIDE Spring Cleanup, can make a huge difference with the county's appearance,” Saylor said.
The dates have been set. Three Saturdays have been scheduled for countywide spring cleanup projects to take place. On April 8, 15, and 22, Saylor, along with Harlan County Solid Waste Coordinator Lakis Mavinidis and other PRIDE officials, will convene at the courthouse at 8 a.m. to begin cleanup events.
“We will be there all three days, handing out supplies to anyone interested in coming out and helping to clean up their communities,” said Mavinidis, who has volunteered with the PRIDE program in Harlan County for several years. “Litter bags will be provided, along with handy pick uppers and safety vests. We want to see many, many volunteers come out and participate on these days.”
PRIDE, which stands for Personal Responsibility In a Desirable Environment, was launched in 1997 by U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers and the late General James Bickford, former Secretary of the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet. Their goal was to restore the natural beauty of their native region by encouraging citizens to take responsibility for protecting their environment and by providing the education and resources they need to do so.
PRIDE is implemented in a 38-county region in southeastern Kentucky, including Harlan County. The initiative unites citizens with the resources of federal, state and local governments in order to improve water quality in the region, clean up illegal trash dumps and other solid water programs, and to promote environmental awareness and education.
Since PRIDE was first launched, southeastern Kentucky has made major strides in making improvements in the region's two primary pollution sources - dumping trash illegally and discharging raw sewage through straight pipes or failing septic systems. Part of the program's success are the annual cleanup campaigns, like the one slated to begin next Saturday.
“The PRIDE Spring Cleanup is not to be confused with large item pick-up services at private residencies provided by the Harlan County Fiscal Court,” said Mavinidis. “The purpose of the PRIDE Spring Cleanup is to tidy up our communities by picking up litter, trash and large items that are found in locations that are not private, such as public right of ways, parks, riverbanks and creeks as well as roadways.”
Mavinidis said all kinds of volunteers are needed for the county-wide cleanup projects.
“We need people to pick up the litter, to transport the trash, to volunteer usage of extra vehicles, backhoes and other equipment, and volunteers to provide refreshments for the workers,” he said. “This is an excellent project for church and civic groups.”
Mavinidis also said the county's transfer station will be open on all three Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Motorists are asked to be mindful of the volunteers as they are out picking up litter along the highways for the next succession of Saturdays.
Some of this year's PRIDE Spring Cleanup projects include a portion of the Little Shepherd Trail extending from Kingdom Come State Park to KY 160 near Gordon. The Trail cleanup will take place on April 8.
“This should be a great cleanup endeavor,” Mavinidis said. “I've been up to Kingdom Come State Park a few times looking for bears, and it's good to see how beautiful that park is looking. This cleanup that's planned for the Little Shepherd Trail is a wonderful continuation of all the hard work which is evident that's been taking place in that area.”
Tri-City Pride Coordinator Christi Lewis-Yercine, also has cleanup projects planned for the towns of Cumberland, Benham and Lynch.
PRIDE Coordinators Elizabeth Powell has several cleanup endeavors planned for the city of Harlan, and Loyall Mayor Charlie Wattenberger, who also serves as a PRIDE Coordinator, has plans for his town, too.
Pine Mountain Community Coordinator Judy Lewis has a cleanup planned on April 22. Liggett Baptist Church will be organizing a cleanup on KY 72 from their community to Pansy on April 8, and the VFW #1178 will be picking up trash along KY 413 from the foot of Pine Mountain to the city of Loyall on the same day.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Martins Fork Lake will also be holding a cleanup on April 8. Volunteers will be cleaning up the lake's shoreline, painting playground equipment and installing fish habitat structures.
Those interested in volunteering for the planned cleanup initiatives, or who would like to organize a cleanup of their own, are encouraged to contact Saylor or Mavinidis. Saylor can be reached at 573-3219, ext. 13, and Mavinidis can be reached through the Harlan County Judge-Executive's Office at 573-2600.
Tri-City residents can contact Yercine at 589-5812. Loyall residents can contact Wattenberger at 573-6396, and Harlan residents can contact Powell at 573-2912.
“We're looking forward to a great turnout of support,” Mavinidis said. “It's encouraging to see the interest displayed by all the volunteers we've had for the PRIDE Spring Cleanup through the years. But, sometimes, we forget about the most important volunteer, and that's the one who throws the litter out in the first place. If we can reach those, educate them, and change their mindset, then that's a tremendous accomplishment. People need to realize the first thing they can do in cleaning up their communities is to not litter. If it's not thrown out, then it don't have to be picked up.”