Friday, February 24, 2012

First Responders For Durham's Community Appearance

The subject of appearance is on the minds of many in Durham, NC these days with the impending removal of trees around billboards here and statewide.  A new law that goes into effect on March 1 will permit billboard owners to clear cut to the ground more than a football field of all trees and shrubs from in front of their signs.

Appearance is a big part of a community's image.  In a recent poll, by a margin of about 4 to 1, Durham residents agreed or strongly agreed that appearance should be a high community priority.

Read on for an interesting piece by DCVB's President Emeritus, Reyn Bowman, on a way that the City of Durham quietly responds to this concern everyday and continues to try and deliver the promise that Durham is where great things happen.

"First Responders For Community Appearance"
Reyn Bowman
Durham North Carolina's tiny 8-member Rapid Response Impact Team is the hidden force behind much of what is often credited only to neighborhood associations or organizations like Keep Durham Beautiful.
Headed by Durham native, Daryl Hedgspeth, as part of the City’s Neighborhood Services Improvement Department, the Impact Team was responsible in the past calendar year alone for:
  • Removing nearly 9000 instances of graffiti and related symbols and scripted words.
  • Removing 324 displaced shopping carts that had been driven away from the sites where they belong only to be abandoned and left to junk up roadsides and trails.
  • Removing more than 1100 illegal dump sites created by people, both residents and nonresidents who travel to Durham to work, who couldn't be troubled to properly dispose of the refuse.
  • Mowing 344 "weedy lots" and cleaning up debris from another 243 sites, nearly 746 tons in all.
In addition, the Impact Team facilitates individual neighborhood cleanup initiatives such as “big sweep” efforts focused on waterways as well as cleanup preparation for, urban gardens, clearing neglected right-of-ways, and dealing with costly-to-remove up huge bills such as paint and hydraulic fluids spills. 
The Impact Team is also most likely the group that quietly distributes and retrieves barricades for parades, fundraising walks and runs, festivals and other community events.  They also supervise a team of two dozen young people over the summer it picked up 9 tons of litter in just eight weeks.
Given the fact that Durham residents gave only two failing grades to their community, including one for inattention to general appearance, the Impact Team’s remarkable effort is one area not yet scaled to the size of the task it faces.
This remarkable group doesn't get the attention it should because to do so would be to draw attention to neglect and raise questions about why community appearance is given such high priority among residents, but receives far too little attention from those in governance.
Residents who mount volunteer cleanup efforts in neighborhoods and along streams and trails or spy graffiti or illegal dumping or weedy lots or debris that are threatening the community’s well-being, including public health and safety, should call or e-mail Durham One Call for assistance but it is likely the Rapid Response Impact Team that they will thank in the end.

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