By Noell Wolfgram Evans
William Huffman, operations manager for the Friends of the Hilltop, was looking over a stack of newspaper articles dating back nearly 30 years. While the papers and the pictures varied, there was one consistent theme across them all – the overabundance of trash on the streets of the Hilltop.
Huffman’s concern was a simple one – why is this still a point of discussion, why, after this long, are the streets of the Hilltop still continually littered with trash?
“What are we doing wrong? What are we missing?” Huffman asked. “How do we address this problem?”
It’s not just litter that one can find on nearly every Hilltop street, but trash in its larger form – old couches, trash bags, bottles and cans, stacks of papers blowing back and forth across the street.
Huffman doesn’t place blame for the issue at the feet of the city.
“I think the city is trying their best,” said Huffman. “The division of refuge does a good job but the problem hasn’t ever gone away.”
Jeff Ortega, the assistant director in the City of Columbus Department of Public Service, says that the city is trying to address the area’s trash problem.
“The division of refuse collection works with neighborhoods to fight the problem of illegal dumping, in which trash is dumped illegally in alley ways and in other areas of the city right-of-way,” said Ortega. “There are solid waste inspectors that investigate issues related to illegal dumping. These inspectors work with the Franklin County prosecutor to pursue charges where appropriate.”
Ortega’s comments line up with a theory that Huffman has been batting around recently.
“It’s not a city problem or an individual problem; it’s a community problem.”
Huffman points out that at one time in the not to distant past, there were some 40 different communities that made up the Hilltop. Today those smaller areas have been combined into a more unified Hilltop but Huffman wonders what the cost of that unification was.
“People don’t have that attraction, or connection to it (their neighborhood),” Huffman said. “The identity of the community needs to be given back to them.”
This change in approach, he thinks, would create more neighborhood support.
The question remains though, how to foster that sense of unity that seems to currently be evading this long-standing trash problem.
Ortega agrees that a more unified neighbor/government approach needs to take place.
“We also need residents to do their part to fight illegal dumping. Residents can help stop illegal dumpers by calling the Environmental Crimes Task Force at (614) 871-5322,” said Ortega.
Huffman believes that stronger communication efforts will help break this three decade cycle of Hilltop streets acting as a de facto dump, suggesting that YouTube or the Community Access Channel be used to help raise awareness.
“The city works to educate the community on refuse matters and has started a public awareness campaign, called End Littering, to raise the profile of this issue. Litter is costly to clean up, impacts our quality of life, safety and economic development,” Ortega said.