"This land is your land, this land is my land..."

April 13, 2018

As a native Delawarean, I'm disheartened by the pervasiveness of trash and debris along every road, field and parking lot. In my more than 50 years in this beautiful state, I have never seen it in such a state of defilement.

The entire State of Delaware looks like the morning after a frat party. It's not just cigarette butts and fast food containers, it's full bags of household and commercial debris. I'm often traveling throughout Delaware, and this is a statewide problem.

We do have laws and fines regarding littering (below). Much more needs to be done in identifying and fining litterbugs, increasing and collecting the fines, and cleaning up the roadsides. I once knew of someone who took household trash to a local dump after hours and left it by the gate, without the required fee. The refuse company quickly went through her trash, found her name and address, and sent her a bill with fines.

If the state adopted this type of program, not only would the cost of the employees be paid for, this could be a revenue producer for Delaware. So many homes and businesses have cameras and security systems as well as the traffic cameras; couldn't litterbugs be identified and fined?

I understand the state and the police have bigger issues, but the trash is clearly a public health matter, not to mention endangering wildlife. To all state representatives, please help manage this issue in your district as well as statewide. Action may be required from Gov. John Carney and Department of Natural Resources Secretary Shawn Garvin.

Delaware enacted Title 16, Health and Safety, Regulatory Provisions Concerning Public Health: Litter Control Law. It declares, "It is the intention of this chapter to end littering on public or private property, including bodies of water, as a threat to the health and safety of the citizens of this state. It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to dump, deposit, throw or leave, or cause or permit the dumping, depositing, placing, throwing or leaving of litter on any public or private property of this state, or any waters in this state.

Any person found guilty of violating this chapter shall be punished by a fine of not less than $50 and up to 8 hours of community service for a first offense and $75 and up to 25 hours of community service for a second offense within two years. If the offense occurred on or along a Delaware byway, as defined in § 101 of Title 17, an additional mandatory penalty of $500 must be imposed for every first, second, and subsequent offense, in addition to the fine."

When you selected to live in Delaware, I have no doubt that the First State's beautiful landscapes and waterways were a factor; from our numerous county, state and now, national parks; many historic sites from Hagley to Old New Castle to Fort Miles; bountiful farm lands and access to fresh food and statewide farmers markets; to gorgeous vistas from our waterways; boating and fishing. These natural resources are a legacy to the next generation of Delawareans.

I'm a child of the 1970s and grew up with a television commercial of a Native American standing on the side of the freeway watching cars go by and throw trash out the window, with tears running down his face. That image made such an impression on me, and it would be appropriate to run this public service message again. "This land is your land, this land is my land... This land is made for you and me." (Woody Guthrie)

Leslie Anne Walsh


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