Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor
A picture is worth a thousand words, or at least 500. The photo of a overstuffed bear resistant garbage toter that was placed on the road Sunday afternoon illustrates a growing problem in Highlands (photo below). I suspect a VRBO group decided it was acceptable to just pile their garbage up on the roadside. I hope this was not the deed of a permanent resident.
What is unfortunate is that much of the garbage in the photo could have been recycled. The toter was less than a mile away from our recycling trailer at the Highlands Recreation Center. The cardboard boxes, beer cans and wine bottles didn’t have to appear in the photograph.
I have researched the issue of overloading toters. Many commercial companies, like Waste Management, have additional fees for overloading their trash toters. If the lid cannot be closed, the additional fees go into place. In lieu of fees, the town has fines for placing loose garbage on the roadside. It is a form of littering.
What is distressing about the image is the message it communicates about how people view this beautiful mountain environment. It suggests a sense of entitlement about just throwing away garbage.
As I have stated many times before, everything consumed on the plateau is trucked in and sold. It costs more money on average to purchase these products, but folks accept those prices as part of being in this beautiful, but isolated mountain community. The flip side is that it costs more money to remove the trash generated on the plateau. It is intolerable to just throw garbage on the roadside. What is seen in the photograph increases the likelihood of trash being scattered. Caring citizens routinely participate in litter sweeps to keep our community beautiful. We are all responsible for disposing the trash we generate in a conscientious and responsible manner.
There are related issues that the town and the county need to address. One priority is to locate a site and build a convenience center in, or near, Highlands where folks can recycle and deposit excessive amounts of waste. The project will be challenging but has to be addressed.
Second, the community needs to examine policies on short term rentals, i.e., VRBOs [Vacation Rental By Owner]. I, along with some commissioners, are getting growing feedback about visitors coming to town to party and have a good time and then leaving garbage messes behind for town sanitation workers to haul off. I suspect this short term rental issue will be a major item in the Highlands Community Plan which will be coming out toward the end of 2021. It will be interesting to see how residents feel about the situation.
In the meantime, we can all continue to be good, environmental stewards of the plateau. Town staff and law enforcement are reviewing ordinances and polices to see if improvements can be made.
Now that I am finished writing this article, I going out to pickup bags of trash on US 64 that wonderful volunteers collected this past weekend.