Those tired of a "dirty city" vow to clean up Harrisburg block-by-block. The grassroots effort dubbed 'Clean and Green' has a strong backing.
Yes, it is hard to think "spring cleaning" when winter snow still falls into our eyes. However, beneath the Fountain Gate Church on Derry Street, a vision of a greener future begins to sprout.
Chris Fegley of the Community Action Commission will lead an aggressive citywide overhaul. Fegley combined efforts with just about every major organization, political power, and invested business in Harrisburg to form the Clean and Green Harrisburg Coalition.
Those outside the city who feel this is just a Harrisburg problem, think again. Community journalist and activist Tara Leo Auchey, who coined the weekly cleanup movement "2 Minute Tuesday," urged everyone who comes to Harrisburg to participate.
"This is not just about the city residents, this is not just about us. This is about all of us," she said.
Clean and Green will conduct their separate programs, but is working with the city. Parks and Recreation Director Dr. Brenda Alton spoke on behalf of Mayor Linda Thompson Monday and said their efforts will work well with the mayor's Right the Blight and Neighborhood Safety Zone programs.
Picking up trash and citing those in violation with city codes was a part of the most recent NSZ at 19th and Bellevue. Last week Thompson rattled off a list of success stories, including citing 65 properties for code violations.
Now that the barricades are gone, we spoke with one young man living in the neighborhood that those results came and went.
"It did something for the time being," he said. "But, as far as permanently, nah, it didn't do much."
Clean and Green members explain citywide clean-ups and one-time events will not fix the problem. Consistent efforts and incessant messages must take place to retrain an attitude, replace a culture surrounded by the "I don't care" philosophy.
At the corner of Derry and Kittatinny stands 'The Heart of the Community' garden. A white picket fence surrounds the garden and on one fence post was painted the words, "One person can change the community."
Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick echoes those words.
"This needs to be a old-fashioned grassroots effort block by block," he said. "If it's not going to happen that way, all of these speeches are for nothing."
If words aren't motivation enough, the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office believes harsh punishments and fines might do the trick.
First Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo said litterbugs in the city could face fines up to hundreds of dollars. However, the larger problem, Chardo said, continues to be illegal dumping. Chardo explained those caught illegal dumping within city limits could face felony charges and fined up to $10,000.
Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries said this tactic might be the saving grace.
"The only way to get these people to really recognize it, hit em' where it counts: in the wallet. And lock them up," he said. "Because we've had enough, you've had enough, and we're going to do something about it."