Tourism leaders say the litter must stop

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Trash is all over the interstate, down city streets and along the beach in South Mississippi.

"The image we give the traveling public of what our highways and byways look like is, quite frankly, atrocious," George Schloegel said.

South Mississippi's economy relies on visitors, but tourism leaders say no amount of money will lure people to a trashy vacation spot.

"I was so frustrated dodging beer cans on my way to work the other day," Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Tourism Direct Beth Carriere said. "I referred to it as a video game; it was dangerous and trashing the interstate."

These leaders on the tri-county tourism board feel so strongly about cleaning up they have formed a committee dedicated to beautifying the community. Former Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel will lead the committee.

"We need boots on the ground and suits in the capitol to do what needs to be done that will improve the quality of life and economy for the whole state of Mississippi," Carriere said. "First impressions last, only impressions never go away."

According to Keep America Beautiful $11.5 billion is spent on cleaning up litter along the roadways every year and besides tax dollars surveys show litter can also decrease the value of your home by around 7 percent.

"It's unfortunate we have folks who carelessly throw that trash out the window and think somebody can pick that up," Schloegel said. "Well, that somebody is our tax dollars."

"Collectively, I think we can figure out where to start," Carriere said. "It's got to stop. We have company coming and we need to keep it clean."

The group believes education is a start in combating the problem.

"We hope more people will be aware that trash throws trash," Schloegel said. "Most good people don't do that."

Littering is also against the law. Highway Patrol officers in South Mississippi have issued 113 littering tickets this year; Gulfport police have issued 69. Those tickets will cost you about $250 in fines and possibly community service.

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