2017-04-13 / Front Page

Rotary and Merchants Grab Brooms for Mother Earth

By Betsy Sherman Walker

Newport Rotarians Barbara Peters, Jason Hill and Regina Slezak are getting ready for the "Clean Sweep" project. (Photo by Jen Carter) Newport Rotarians Barbara Peters, Jason Hill and Regina Slezak are getting ready for the "Clean Sweep" project. (Photo by Jen Carter) A team of Newport merchants and organizations is gearing up to celebrate Earth Day on Saturday, April 22 by sweeping the sidewalks of Broadway. Volunteers, armed with brooms, will clean up the newly upgraded street scene, with the goal of setting a standard and making a statement of civic and environmental significance.

They are calling their campaign, “Clean Sweep.”

The effort is a collaboration between Newport Rotarians and Broadway business owners, with an endorsement from the City Council.

According to the Earth Day website, April 22 is the anniversary of the 1970 launch of the modern environmental movement. At the time, it was a national response to an emerging concern for the environment, as well as to proven links between pollution and public health. In 1990, the movement went global.


Norey Cullen (Photo by Jen Carter) Norey Cullen (Photo by Jen Carter) But Earth Day celebrations are most effective at the local grass roots level.

“Earth Day begins at home,” says Donna Maytum, who, with her husband, Jack, has owned the Firehouse Theater on Equality Park (just off Broadway) since 2000. Maytum, a past president of Newport Rotary, is a com- munity advocate known for her deep commitment to a number of causes.

Clean Sweep participants will assemble at 8 a.m. at the Firehouse Theater. They will be organized into teams and assigned to areas along Broadway. Brooms, brown paper trash bags and gloves will be handed out, and from 9 to 11 a.m. they will sweep the neighborhood. Sweepers will have until noon to return trash bags to the theater.

Other organizations committed to the sweep include the Off Broadway Neighborhood Association and local Cub Scouts. Groups invited include the Lions Club, the Kiwanis, the Rogers High School National Honor Society team, the Rogers recycling Green Team, the St. Joseph’s Church confirmation class and the Young Professionals from the Newport Chamber of Commerce.

The idea was introduced by Norey Cullen of Norey’s Restaurant at a March 22 meeting of the Broadway Merchants Association. The meeting coincided with a challenge from the president of Rotary International for clubs to undertake a project in their communities.

Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self.” As an organization with causes both local and global, including the Haiti Clean Water Project and the campaign to end polio, the question became how the Newport club could make a difference in the community.

“We went through a variety of ideas about cleaning,” said Maytum.

They discussed city parks and the median strips on Memorial Boulevard, but ultimately, the focus turned to Broadway.

Appearances aside, the initiative reflects the more specific environmental focus in which the lowly cigarette butt plays a major role. At the March meeting, the City Council unanimously voted to develop an ordinance that would require merchants to clean up cigarette butts and other debris in front of their business properties. The vote had been continued from the Feb. 22 meeting, so clean sidewalks and the clearing of “detritus” was at the forefront of conversations (and editorial pages). Maytum and the merchants received the green light for the sweep, fresh on the heels of the resolution.

“The object of the game is for people to get the idea,” said Maytum. “We need to prevent the detritus from going into the storm drains and into the harbor.”

Last summer, two trash skimmers were permanently installed on docks at Perrotti Park as part of a $54,000 grant received by the local non-profit, Clean Ocean Access (COA). Since then, Executive Director Dave McLaughlin told Newport This Week, the skimmers have prevented 741 cigarettes, 252 tobacco packages and 86 cigar tips from emptying into the water.

Last week, McLaughlin weighed in further about the destination of Broadway litter. “A fair amount of the streets up from Perrotti Park towards Broadway drain to the harbor,” he said. “Fortunately, the trash skimmers collect this now, but the real solution is prevention.”

Cullen is pleased that her idea has gained traction. “I did think of it,” she said, “and mentioned it to the Broadway Association as a possible project we could do for the street. Then Rotary heard of it, and has taken on the cleaning of Broadway as one of their projects, which is great. It will be terrific.”

She has her own idea of where this could go. “I was originally thinking it could be incorporated throughout the entire city,” she said. “Just envision all the owners of businesses and restaurants out on the same day with brooms cleaning the gutters. How cool would that be?”

“Maybe we could get it going all over the country!” she added. “It is symbolic of people caring about the city in which they live. Beautify the city, one home or one business at a time.”

Initially, there was talk of the volunteers also sweeping the streets, but that was considered too risky, according to Maytum. Cigarette debris might pose the worst problem, she said, but in the end, it was not in the wording of the ordinance. “The city seems to be working on that part of the problem.”

But butts still have to be dealt with. It remains to be determined if there will be a designated team just to rake the mulched tree wells, where a non-scientific tally last month counted nearly 80 scattered in just one well. In the end, Maytum said they will probably need to be “hand-picked.”

With Earth Day approaching, merchants are hopeful the Clean Sweep will maintain the streetscape momentum.

“I hope that the city will continue to finish the Broadway project by putting in new trees and new shrubs,” Cullen said. “Broadway now needs the final touches to make the street look clean and attractive. And finished!

“It has been several years. It needs to happen.”

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