New survey approach highlights dirtiest wards, public spaces
A nonprofit’s annual survey suggests Reno residents are littering more than ever before. The 2015 assessment from Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful is more thorough than in years past, however, so it may be a better indicator of problem areas than any changing trends. KTMB’s survey, which will soon go public, gives our area a 2.1 on a best-to-worst scale of 1 to 4—meaning, in short, that litter is here and in some cases a big cleanup is in order. Last year’s score was 1.6, with 1 meaning no visible litter, 2 indicating the presence of trash, 3 calling for an organized cleanup, and 4 accounting for illegal dumping.
Far more survey participants worked on foot this time, combing highways, individual City Council wards, Washoe County Commission districts, and other public areas. Because many previous tallies were conducted by car, “they haven’t truly accounted for all the different areas in our community—our parks, our open-space areas, the river, all of that,” said KTMB program manager Jaime Souza.
Last year’s worst offender, for example, was I-80 East around Lockwood in Washoe County. This year, it’s open space controlled by the Bureau of Land Management in Cold Springs, Golden Valley, Eagle Canyon, Hidden Valley, Swan Lake and Sun Valley, which scored a collective 3.4. The cleanest zones were in Southeast Reno, Galena and Pleasant Valley, and District 2, where apparently no litter could be found.
“There are definitely spots we’re concerned about more than others,” said BLM spokeswoman Lisa Ross, who described everything from shell casings to dumped electronics and yard waste.
The latter is a big one these days, Souza said. So is construction debris.
“You might see yard waste, branches, cement, asphalt—like chipped-off blocks—you might see leftover sod,” she said. “Yes, it’s true that branches are ’natural;’ they will decompose, but not very quickly. We live in a high-desert environment.”
Then there’s the Truckee River corridor, which is about as varied as can be, litter-wise.
Just ask Verdi retiree Ted Louvier, who drives his scooter down to Barbara Bennett Park nearly every day. Once there, he settles himself onto a retaining wall and relaxes in front of the water.
“There’s a little bit [of litter] here and there, like this,” he said, gesturing toward errant bits of paper and cellophane, “but as far as a real mess, I haven’t seen any.” The park is full of trashcans, he added, pointing to at least three in view.
Head northeast along the water, though, and you’ll see garbage at public spaces such as Fisherman’s Park, where KTMB and the Truckee Meadows Water Authority organized a cleanup effort on Aug. 14.
“I did go down there,” Louvier said of Fisherman’s. “But it’s too undone.”
KTMB employees hope park users like Louvier will take part in next year’s survey—one apt to be “more of a citizen-science kind of project,” Souza said. “When people are out on their walks, when they’re out on their hikes, when they’re recreating by the river, they can then post their scores on social media. We’re wanting to get anyone and everyone involved.”