2017-09-20 / Front Page

Man tries to keep mountian sites clean, but is frustrated by results

By SAM ADAMS


FRUSTRATING WORK — Jim Webb has worked hard to try to keep the scenic overlooks near the top of Pine Mountain near Whitesburg free of garbage, but soon became frustrated after finding that seemingly every can, bottle and wrapper he picked up was replaced by another. Thieves even stole the garbage cans that were donated by a local grocer to help keep the sites clean. (Photo by Sam Adams) FRUSTRATING WORK — Jim Webb has worked hard to try to keep the scenic overlooks near the top of Pine Mountain near Whitesburg free of garbage, but soon became frustrated after finding that seemingly every can, bottle and wrapper he picked up was replaced by another. Thieves even stole the garbage cans that were donated by a local grocer to help keep the sites clean. (Photo by Sam Adams) Call it a tale of two counties — one littered and foreboding, the other clean and inviting.

Jim Webb, who lives at the top of Pine Mountain and proudly proclaims himself to be “Kentucky’s highest resident,” wants the clean, inviting county. But whenever he drives to or from his home atop the state’s second highest mountain, what he sees is just the opposite.

Webb’s home and his quirky campground, Wiley’s Last Resort, is just on the opposite side of Letcher Gap from two overlooks where dozens of travelers on U.S. 119 South stop every day to look at what he calls the best view in Kentucky. As a member of the Whitesburg Rotary Club, he worked to help get picnic tables and garbage cans placed there. Unfortunately, some visitors, apparently local people, haven’t been exactly respectful of the efforts.

“It was the best of ideas, it was the worst of ideas,” Webb said, noting that while people seem to love having the tables at which to sit, many of them ignore the garbage cans and throw their trash on the ground. He was picking it up, until he finally gave up.

“Larry Whitaker of Food World donated two heavyduty steel garbage cans, and I was servicing them — I’d stop and empty them and put bags in them every Wednesday when I went into town for my radio show,” Webb said. “One day, I went by and somebody was scrapping (metal) up by the old chimney and when I came by later that day, both garbage cans were gone.”


Litter destroys the view at the site of an overlook on Pine Mountain near Whitesburg. (Photo by Sam Adams) Litter destroys the view at the site of an overlook on Pine Mountain near Whitesburg. (Photo by Sam Adams) A wooden container didn’t last either. Someone built a fire in it and burned it up. Someone also destroyed one of the original picnic tables that was chained to the guardrail at the overlook. The Right Angle, a group of local men and women who meet once a week to socialize and, as Webb put it, “occasionally do good deeds,” replaced the splintered picnic table. Webb has placed two plastic laundry hampers at the tables now in hopes that no one will want to steal them, and that some people at least will put their trash in them.

A 2009 study by Keep America Beautiful, the first such national study done since 1969, showed that most littering occurs where there are no trash cans, but that about 83 percent of people do dispose of litter properly. Of those who don’t, about 85 percent litter intentionally.

A former member of the Letcher County Convention and Tourism Commission, Webb said it frustrates him that some people want to destroy an attraction that is an asset to tourism and economic development in the county.

“How can we expect any corporation or anybody to come in here when we have so little pride in our environment?” he said.

Letcher County Judge/ Executive Jim Ward said he’s trying to schedule a time for jail inmates to clean up the sites and mow the weeds. Like Webb, he said it gets discouraging when people continue to trash the place.

“We can clean it up and I’ll go up the next weekend and it’ll be in the same shape,” he said.

Most of the litter at the overlooks is food packaging, which is common at recreation areas all over the country. According to the Keep America Beautiful study, about half the litter at recreational sites is larger items, mostly food-related. More than 98 percent comes from pedestrians. The most commonly found litter consists of tobacco products such as cigarette butts.

Ward said he hopes to clean up the overlooks and develop them to make them more attractive to tourists. One of his staff is working with the state highway department to try to get the department to make a gap in the guard rail that people can walk through, and put a nice fence by the edge of the cliff so people can get a better view of the mountains without falling over the mountainside. He said he’s also working with some property owners near a third overlook at the top of the mountain to get permission for the county to build an observation deck over the side of the mountain.

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