Walkers round up garbage Foes of litterbugs relish 'dirty task' ELLICOTT CITY/ELKRIDGE

March 29, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Phyllis Elliott, Mary Strow and Jane Wehland wage an endless war every day in their Lawyers Hill neighborhood. Stray beer cans, paper and glass are their casualties, and litterbugs are their enemies.

"It's kind of a dirty task," said Ms. Elliott, who began this pastime of picking up trash four or five years ago during her daily walks around Lawyers Hill. When the Elkridge resident is done, she retraces the path on her way to work.

"My goal is to get down there before anyone throws out a piece of trash," she said. "It's a pretty place and I hate to see it so junked up."

Just down the road, Montgomery Woods resident Kathy Woods stumbles over curtain rods and broken toys during walks with her dog.

A month ago, she discovered heavy-duty plastic strung between trees, two screen doors and chunks of concrete in a clearing behind her town house.

Instead of complaining, she picked it up and hauled it away in her sport-utility vehicle.

"I think that encourages you to do something," said Ms. Woods, who picks up trash and does "dump runs" every two weeks.

Armed with plastic bags, the women independently pick up litter during their routine walks in their neighborhoods. All the women say they love their communities and want to keep them beautiful.

"It's my back yard too; I walk my dog there," said Ms. Woods, who has lived in Montgomery Woods for 14 years.

Ms. Elliott has long walked for her health, but it wasn't until she attended an Elkridge community association meeting that she began zeroing in on litter.

"Someone at the community association meeting mentioned that we needed a cleanup drive," recalled Ms. Elliott. "I thought to myself, 'Maybe we don't need a cleanup crew. Maybe we just need me.' "

The 54-year-old resident said picking up litter gives her an added sense of community activism.

"It's real hard to make time for community events," she said, referring to public hearings. "I just don't have time for that."

Jane Wehland, accompanied by her mixed-breed terrier, Edward, has picked up trash along Montgomery Road and Bauman Drive for two years.

"I just pick it up because I don't want to look at it," Ms. Wehland said.

Mary Strow, 62, picks up trash during three-mile walks from her home to the Thomas Viaduct.

"If I see a piece of trash along the side of the road, I feel like stopping the car to pick it up," said Ms. Strow, who also finds herself scooping up aluminum cans near her car at the supermarket.

When Ms. Elliott finds aluminum cans, she takes them home, rinses and crushes them for recycling. Once or twice a month, she takes aluminum cans, bottles and newspapers to a mobile recycling truck at the Golden Triangle Shopping Center in Ellicott City or the Alpha Ridge Landfill on Marriottsville Road.

"I wait till I have a garbage can full," Ms. Elliott said. "Sometimes I have a trunk-load of it." The recyclable material is partly hers and partly the trash she finds along the street.

Cathy Hudson, president of the Elkridge Community Association, said the women make a big difference in eliminating trash.

"They come up with bags full," said Ms. Hudson, who lives on Lawyers Hill. It helps [the neighborhood] from looking junked."

As a result of their diligence, the women have come to recognize certain litterbug habits.

"I think people feel freer when they're not throwing trash into people's front yards," said Ms. Wehland, 57, who said isolated parts of Bauman Drive attract a lot of litterbugs.

Ms. Woods says most people don't intentionally litter.

"Somebody will move out of one the apartments and they'll leave [their refuse] for the trashman, and little kids will play with it or the neighborhood dogs will get into it, and ergo, you will have trash," she said.

Ms. Elliott, who has lived on Lawyers Hill for 25 years, said more people have brought more litter to the area.

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