Photo by Erica Techo.
Old Rocky Ridge Ranch Road is one of the roads with the biggest litter problems, said Hoover Beautification Board member Andrew Fort.
Many people ignore the trash on the side of the road, but Andrew Fort works to combat it.
Each Saturday morning, Fort picks a road in Hoover, grabs a few empty trash bags and works to clean up the roadside.
“A lot of times, if you’re driving down a road you don’t really see trash sometimes,” he said. “When you actually park your car and walk the road, it’s amazing how much trash you do see.”
Fort lives in The Preserve and has been a member of the Hoover Beautification Board for about eight years, and cleaning up litter is one way he believes people can help improve Hoover.
“I’m real passionate about keeping our city clean,” he said. “I think that a clean city helps attract people to our city. It keeps our property values up. And I think when you have a road that’s highly littered, it attracts more litter. It encourages people to throw more litter.”
He has picked up anything from wine cooler bottles and beer cans to fast food garbage and other items he’d prefer not to mention. Some people might see the effort as futile, and Fort admits the road is normally dirty by the next week, but continuing to pick up garbage is better than letting it pile up for weeks.
“I know it’s a little quirky, but I just can’t stand to see my community dirty,” he said.
The process also gets easier over time, Fort said. When he started out, he would fill five or 10 large trash bags. Now he can knock out a few roads in a day because the weekly cleanup combats accumulation.
Fort sticks to local roads with a slower traffic flow due to safety concerns, he said, but when trash starts piling up in higher-traffic areas, he will notify the Hoover Public Works Department of the issue. After emailing the department, Fort said they normally send a crew to the area within a week.
“They do a really, really good job keeping up with those,” Fort said. “It’s not an easy project to keep up those roads from being heavily littered.”
In the past, Fort said he has also worked with the Hoover Police Department to set up digital message boards on roadways in order to remind drivers of the fines for littering.
South Shades Crest Road is an area where garbage will be picked up and then replaced with new trash in less than a week, Fort said. Last year, Hoover police set up a sign for a few days that said “Do not litter” and noted the $250 fine for first-time offenders.
“I can tell you that it absolutely made a difference,” Fort said. “When people were going down that road, they were seeing that message.”
The road had exponentially less trash during those three or four days, and the trash collected at a slower rate for the next few weeks, he said.
“The problem is just education on this,” he said. “I think that if people realize what the fines were for littering and that it takes somebody actually going out there and cleaning it up, maybe people would think twice before throwing it out.”
Education is one reason he wants to get more signs on Hoover roadways, he said, and one reason the beautification board works with Hoover schools. The board helps put together Litter Awareness Week, which takes place leading up to Household Hazardous Waste Day, and works toward educating students.
There is a poster contest during the week, and about five Hoover elementary schools participate. Almost every year, Fort said Hoover has a student place in the top three in the statewide competition.
“We do encourage the kids through their teachers, of course, to grow up not with that mentality of throwing things out the window,” Fort said.
Fort hopes teaching habits such as using proper trash receptacles and recycling when possible will help Hoover continually improve. While the goal is lofty, he is content helping one Saturday morning at a time.
“One of my goals is for the city of Hoover, for our city to be one of the cleanest in the state from a litter and recycling standpoint,” he said. “That’s very challenging at times.”