Over the next month, you'll read about some major tidying campaigns in Modesto and surrounding areas.
Signs are posted promoting Love Modesto on Sept. 29, preceded by Clean Our Stanislaus River Day on Sept. 15.
Do you know why they're having a Love Modesto day? Because some people don't love it very much. They trash parks and neighborhoods, showing absolutely zero class, civic pride or respect for other people's property.
Do you know why they're staging a Clean Our Stanislaus River Day? Because some people treat the river with the same disdain and disregard the Don't Love Modesto people show for the city. They toss tires, strollers, appliances, TVs and other assorted junk into the river with no concern for water quality, the safety of those using the river or the fish and wildlife.
A whirlpool makes for good fish habitat. A discarded Maytag or a Kenmore does not.
The practice of illegally dumping garbage, large and small, along country roads in the unincorporated areas is worsening by the day, said Sue Benavidez of Stanislaus County's Department of Environmental Resources.
I've written and ranted about this many times before and likely will again. It's absolutely disgusting to drive the country roads amid the orchards, cornfields and pastures and come upon four dump sites within a mile-long stretch. That was the case this week along Bentley Road east of Modesto. I wrote about this same stretch before the Amgen Tour of California came to Modesto in 2011.
The race route from Oakdale went south on Bentley before turning west toward Modesto. A month before race day, all kinds of debris lined both sides of Bentley. A local cycling club cleaned it up the weekend before the race, but that didn't stop the morons from leaving a few more, albeit smaller, calling cards before race day. A quick follow-up sweep prevented the TV audience from seeing the trash as the riders sped along the road.
Benavidez said virtually every county road is subjected to illegal dumping, with Santa Fe getting the worst of it on a regular basis. No area of the county is exempt. Illegal dumping mars Tim Bell Road near Waterford; Harding and Faith Home roads near Turlock; California and Paradise roads west of Modesto; Crows Landing, Terminal, Plainview, Ustick, Litt and other roads bordering Modesto.
"They're all major dumping grounds," Benavidez said. "We're constantly getting calls."
The cost of making and erecting signs warning motorists of the $1,000 fine for littering appears to have been money wasted. Sheriff Adam Christianson said that catching and prosecuting the culprits is virtually impossible. Most of the illegal dumping is done late at night when few people are out to witness it.
One employee of the county landfill and two from Environmental Resources routinely clean up what is illegally dumped, only to return to the same roads a week or so later to do so again.
All of this salaries, gas vehicle costs, unpaid landfill fees is done on the taxpayers' dollar.
"One guy called me and said somebody had told him that if you just put it out on the road, they (county crews) would pick it up," Benavidez said. " 'No,' I told him, 'It's your responsibility.' "
Paying customers of the county's two solid-waste management companies Gilton and Bertolotti can arrange for bulk item pickup twice each year at no additional cost.
Farmers, ranchers and others whose land becomes a dumping ground can haul the junk to the Fink Road Landfill on the county's West Side and dump for free if they'll sign an affidavit declaring it was dumped illegally on their property.
Indeed, some folks prefer to treat the county like a pig sty. Consequently, people who do care do their best to clean up after those who don't.
Love Modesto is one example. Clean Our Stanislaus River is another. Numerous organizations adopt highways and freeways, volunteering their time to do periodic trash pickup.
Oakdale resident Michael Puebla has gone solo, taking it upon himself to clean the Stanislaus River as a one-man anti-trash crusader. He's pulled out everything from clothing and pillows to tires and shopping carts. He's cleaned out homeless encampments beneath the bridges.
And the Sheriff's Department has found duties for its Adult Work Program "clients." They would be in custody if not for the state prison realignment that forces the counties to house more violent criminals locally, taking up beds at the county jail. Those released to make room for them still need to do some form of time. So Christianson created four work program crews to do nothing but clean up the trashed areas.
"We should be able to put a big dent in the problem," Christianson said. By charting the volume and types of discards the crews collect, he'll be able to define the scope of the problem the dumpers create.
These illegal dumpers make it very clear they don't love Modesto, the rivers and the countryside or respect private property.
They dump their trash wherever and leave the cleanup to others. How noble.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.
To participate in the Clean Our Stanislaus River Day event on Sept. 15, call (209) 581-7558 or visit www.eaststanrcd.org.
To participate in the Love Modesto event on Sept. 29, visit www.lovemodesto.com or on Twitter @LoveModesto.