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Efforts to clean up the community are expanding, and organizers are looking for volunteers to help.

The city of Marion, in partnership with Keep McDowell Beautiful, is organizing an Adopt-A-Street program modeled after the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway and similar efforts across the country. So far 16 streets have been registered with NCDOT. The first group to Adopt-A-Street is the N.C. Master Gardener’s Association along Rutherford Road and South Garden Street in Marion.

Here’s how the Adopt-A-Street program works: Groups or individuals can contact Matt Burneisen, program assistant, agriculture and natural resources for Keep McDowell Beautiful. He will talk them through the process. The group or individuals will commit to a section of road that will need to be cleaned up twice a year. After the first year, signs will be placed on the road to recognize those for their hard work. Keep McDowell Beautiful provides all the necessary equipment for the volunteers, trash grabbers, gloves, orange vests and bags and they will help with the pickup of the trash bags.

Similar efforts have been going on for a while in other parts of the county. Jeff Noble, who is part of the Lake James Environmental Association and the Community of the Arbor of Lake James, has done volunteer cleanup and he is well aware of the problem.

“McDowell County is my part-time home, and the amount of carelessly and illegally deposited trash is visually offensive, bad for wildlife, gets in the watershed during a rain, ends up eventually in Lake James, can introduce dangerous pathogens, breakdown as micro plastics and affect people’s health,” he told The McDowell News. “ I consider McDowell County unique for its natural beauty and natural amenities, definitely worth preserving for my children and my grandchildren. I believe the leaders in McDowell County should acknowledge that all of these unique advantages is likely one of the best recruiting tools it has for attracting new businesses and well off retirees to this area and will lead to more broad based economic prosperity. If we take the trash problem for granted, we risk losing this opportunity.”

If groups or individuals are looking to adopt a road outside the city of Marion, they can qualify for the NC DOT Adopt-A-Highway program. NCDOT provides all the materials for trash pickup.

For those interested in volunteering, there will be a training session on Friday, Jan. 17 from 10 a.m. to noon. The session will be in the second floor conference room, McDowell County Administration Building, 60 East Court Street, Marion.

If you are unable to attend but have a group of volunteers who need training, call Keep McDowell Beautiful at (828) 652-8104.

“With a group of volunteers, we can bring the training to you,” Burneisen said.

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