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Making an effort to keep the island beautiful

Ellen and Robert Ballard pick up trash as they walk along Pine Island’s roadways

May 20, 2020
By PAULETTE LeBLANC ( , Pine Island Eagle

According to resident Ellen Ballard, walking around the island has become more of a chore than it should be. In an effort to exercise during this time of isolating at home, Ballard, and her husband, Robert, have taken to regular hikes. Ballard admits she's accustomed to routine cleanup as she's always taken a bag with her in case she sees trash if she's out and about, even on a fun excursion, such as going to the beach.

"I started carrying grocery bags with me on my walk," said Ballard. "I found that I couldn't really walk because I kept stopping to pick up trash."

What began as simple decency, in the form of carrying a small grocery bag in case she saw garbage around the island, has evolved into having to bring several bags, which now repeatedly get filled. Ballard said after she gets home from walking she's begun stuffing the small, garbage filled grocery bags into kitchen-sized garbage bags.

Article Photos

Bags of trash that resident Ellen Ballard has collected along island roads.


She reports having up to seven extra kitchen-sized garbage bags for trash pick up.

"I really only do a couple of areas," said Ballard, "Barancas and Stringfellow from the area down by the pier up to Howard Road and sometimes I'll go up to Kramer."

Ballard said she's been doing this several times a week for the last two months. She made a call to Waste Pro after initially realizing that this was a major issue when she saw someone in Matlacha picking up trash.

"There were many big black trash bags lining the side of the road," said Ballard. "A couple of weeks later I went up to Publix and saw that the bags were still there. I asked WastePro to pick up the bags."

Ballard was told they would not pick up the trash bags. She said she was left with the impression that they felt it was not their job once the garbage was placed in front of a residence or business. She was instructed to call the county instead.

"So I called the county," said Ballard. "Under Lee County Roads there's an operation section and they are responsible for things like repairing sidewalks, cleaning out ditches, and picking up litter."

Ballard said she was thanked for calling and told arrangements would be made to pick up the garbage bags. It is her opinion that much of the garbage comes from the boats after they are pulled from the water, likely unbeknownst to the drivers pulling them on trailers. Since the speed limits fluctuate coming on and off the island, it is likely anything not tied down could fly out of a moving boat.

"I called Parks and Recreation and spoke to the deputy director," said Ballard. "I explained what I perceived to be the problem and asked if she would consider providing signs regarding litter control for the boat ramps."

Ballard said she was offered some suggestions and relayed the message that better communication with the other departments in the future was likely a good idea. Ballard said she's not certain to whom in the county this falls, but that ultimately it's everyone's responsibility.

"I would like to see businesses take some responsibility for doing 'Adopt a Road'," said Ballard. "And I would like to see personal responsibility for throwing the trash out, whether intentionally or unintentionally. On the island, we take a lot of pride in being environmentally aware and concerned about water quality -- you'd never know it by looking around."



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