The river bank of Tawa Creek doesn’t sound like the type of place an 80-year-old man with a walking stick should be climbing around.
Yet there was Carl Westrick last week, in the thick of it, picking up the trash somebody dumped along the creek bed near Agner Road in Ottawa.
“I cannot stand to see the mess, the litter,” the former truck driver said.
So, when he goes on a walk, he takes a trash bag along with him and ends up picking up the mess left by others.
“I don’t understand it. I just don’t understand,” Westrick said. “What’s so hard about picking up your own trash? Don’t people have any pride?”
He believes the litter problem is worse now than at any point of his lifetime. That’s what motivated him to call and send a letter to The Lima News last week.
“Even people who walk and jog are guilty of littering,” Westrick said.
He’ll often find their plastic bottles along their running routes.
“You would think of all people, they would have the decency not to litter,” Westrick said.
The problem is everywhere.
In the spring, our neighborhood knows when the nearby ice cream parlor opens because we’ll find straws and sundae containers dropped on our lawns. A young boy who left fly his ketchup-covered hot dog wrapper in our yard honestly didn’t think he did anything wrong, explaining to me that his buddies told him it was OK to throw trash in a clean yard because “those people will pick it up.”
Then there’s Lima’s beautiful reservoir system and the empty bags of Funyuns and crunched cans of Mountain Dew that people stash in the rocks.
And let’s not forget the cigarette butts.
Cigarette butts are the No. 1 most littered item in America, according to a recent Tax Burden on Tobacco report. It noted that nearly 300 billion cigarettes are purchased in a given year by Americans, and those butts are freely tossed into parks, on beaches and in other waterways.
Paul Kurfis, of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, said officers have found old refrigerators, toasters — “you name it” — along river banks. He’s heard of courts fining people as much as $600 for littering, but said a first-time offense typically brings between a $25 to $100 fine plus court costs, which in Allen County is another $85.
The problem, he says, is that it takes time and manpower to run the type of surveillance that can put a dent in the litter problem. As is, wildlife officers keep an eye out for infractions when checking for fishing licenses and hunting permits.
“It’s a problem. We wish we could do more,” Kurfis said.
Westrick would like to see people turn in the license plate numbers of vehicles being driven by someone who litters.
“People have to work together to stop this,” Westrick said.
In the meantime, he’ll grab his walking stick and a plastic garbage bag, and set out to keep Ottawa’s streets clean.
“God bless people like that man,” Kurfis said.
ROSES AND THORNS: A pair of champions mooo-ve their way into the rose garden.
Rose: To Caden Jones, 13, of Allen East Junior High School, and Brooke Egbert, 15, of New Knoxville High School. Jones took home Reserve Grand Champion honors at the Ohio State Fair when his steer sold for $33,000. Egbert won Grand Champion honors when her steer sold for $45,000.
Rose: To Caleb Austin, of Allen East High School, and Gabrielle Livchak, of Lima Senior. They were crowned Allen County Fair king and queen.
Rose: To Allen County sheriff deputies Justin Kirk and Don Geiger, and Bath Township emergency responders Bill Stippich, Luke Nemire, Dave Maris and Jason Bakles. Their quick action in administering CPR and transporting 18-month-old Alex Ditto to the hospital helped save his life. Alex nearly drowned in a pool.
Rose: To John Mueller, a service forester for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He was recognized by the Ohio Forestry Association as its Outstanding Individual in Government Service. Mueller is known for his conservation efforts in Allen, Auglaize, Hardin, Mercer, Putnam, Van Wert,Paulding, Defiance and Williams counties.
Thorn: To Summer Miller, of Lima, who officials said accidentally slammed her vehicle into an Ada police car, knocking it on its side. She was cited for failure to yield at an intersection.
Thorn:A vandal or vandals broke out windows of nearly 30 vehicles in Wapakoneta, likely using a pellet or BB gun to create their mischief.
PARTING SHOT: Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.