In Portsmouth: Out with the trash barrels, in with the signs

Town will test ’carry in, carry out’ program in Island Park in hopes of curbing litter problem

By Jim McGaw
Posted 8/13/19

PORTSMOUTH — The town will try taking a different tack in dealing with litterbugs in Island Park.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Town Council decided to remove all trash barrels the …

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In Portsmouth: Out with the trash barrels, in with the signs

Town will test ’carry in, carry out’ program in Island Park in hopes of curbing litter problem

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — The town will try taking a different tack in dealing with litterbugs in Island Park.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Town Council decided to remove all trash barrels the Department of Public Works (DPW) had placed along Park Avenue and to install signs announcing that the beaches and sidewalks are under a strict “carry in, carry out” policy.

The new rules, which will be instituted on a trial basis, may go into effect as early as this Friday, Aug. 16.

The change came about after local resident John Vitkevich, a member of the Island Park Preservation Society, complained to the council about the increasing amounts of trash scattered along Island Park Beach, Teddy’s Beach and Park Avenue.

Although Park Avenue is a state road, Mr. Vitkevich said the town is responsible for keeping the sidewalks clean. DPW has six barrels on Park Avenue, and its workers pick up trash on Fridays and Mondays. 

“Public works has been doing a great job maintaining the barrels there, but unfortunately public works can’t maintain them on Saturdays,” said Mr. Vitkevich, who picks up excess trash in the neighborhood, along with others. 

When Sunday comes around, the barrels overflow and the trash makes a real mess, he said. “If you get a storm on a Sunday, it’s just going to be blown all over the place,” Mr. Vitkevich said. “I’m not looking for the public works department to work on a Sunday … but it’s incumbent on us to keep the beach clean.”

Island Park resident Kathy Matsch agreed that the situation is getting out of hand. “We need to do something for Island Park from May to September. It’s nasty to even look at,” she said.

If it comes down to money, Mr. Vitkevich suggested installing one or two parking pay stations. Mr. Vitkevich made it clear he wasn’t advocating for parking meters all along Park Avenue, as an online media report published before Tuesday night’s meeting suggested.

Town Administrator Richard Rainer, Jr. said that report kept him busy Tuesday. “I’ve been getting deluged all day today from parking meter vendors,” he said.

‘Trash magnets’

Mr. Rainer and other town officials, however, suggested that the town do away with the barrels altogether and in their place, install signs enforcing a “carry in, carrying out” policy.

The town is always getting requests for more barrels, but if anything they exacerbate the problem, Mr. Rainer said. 

“You put a barrel out, it’s a magnet for trash,” the administrator said, noting that people use the receptacles to dump trash that isn’t necessarily generated at their place of visit, such as a beach or park. It’s a town-wide problem, he said.

“Quite frankly, it’s getting worse. The cost of dealing with trash is just skyrocketing,” Mr. Rainer said.

Council member Keith Hamilton proposed the town try a carry in, carry out system on a trial basis immediately. “Let’s do it now,” he said. “There’s no use doing it in October, when no one’s going to the beach.”

The council voted unanimously to remove the barrels by Friday, and to seek recommendations from Mr. Rainer’s office on longterm solutions to the trash problem throughout town, including enforcement.

“It’s a start,” said Mr. Vitkevich.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.