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A Beautiful Idea | By Frances Hasty

It’s safe to say that Fayetteville has been better known for its “history and heroes” than for its beauty. Truth be told, the city and its surroundings have ranked high on the trash scale. But thanks to Fayetteville Beautiful, that is changing.

The organization was launched in September 2006, and already, the city is many tons cleaner and beautification projects are in the works.

Fayetteville Beautiful is a grassroots effort headed by Bobby Hurst, who now serves on the City Council. In 2002, he became involved with Fayetteville Futures. Improving Fayetteville’s image, both physical appearance and perception, was one of the group’s main goals, said Hurst, who was chairman of the Image Subcommittee. In April 2003, a citywide cleanup was held, and it was a tremendous success, he said.

When Tony Chavonne ran for mayor two years later, Hurst was his campaign manager. “He heard a lot about blight,” Hurst said, adding that Chavonne wanted a sustainable solution, not just a one-day blitz on litter.

As a result, Fayetteville Beautiful began, using the tag line, “It starts with you.”

At that time, the litter index, a measuring tool set by America the Beautiful, for Fayetteville was 2.95 on a scale of 4 to 1 – 4 being the worst – which meant this was one of the five trashiest cities in the state. By comparison, Charlotte ranked 1.6.

A team studied areas around the eight high schools to determine where litter was most extensive.

On April 14, 2007, 1,200 volunteers collected 42 tons of litter along 217 miles of roadway in less than three hours. And that was just what the volunteers could see along the roads. “We didn’t go looking for it,” Hurst said. Accounting for some of that weight were couches and automobile parts that had been abandoned.

Hundreds of volunteers went out again in September, picking up nine tons of trash, and in April of this year, 948 volunteers gathered six tons on 257 miles of roadway.

Their efforts have paid off with Fayetteville’s litter index down to 2.4.

The most widely littered areas have been determined to be the Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway and the All-American Freeway.

According to Hurst, 59 percent of litter comes out of uncovered trucks. Construction debris is another high offender.

“We knew we had to have tougher ordinances on the books,” Hurst said. “Ours were lax in Fayetteville.”

Six new ordinances have been passed to deal with offenders, and that includes those who create graffiti. The police chief has given his support, and the police will be watching for litterbugs along with speeders. An environmental court hears cases each month. The court operates under the state system with the cooperation of Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis and District Court Judge Kim Tucker.

More trash receptacles are being placed near big-box stores, where litter is a problem, and in other areas of the city. A number of community watch groups are keeping an eye out for litterbugs. A volunteer “cleanup” group stands ready to pick up highway debris. The city has new equipment that picks up litter before cutting the grass.

Fayetteville Beautiful wants to not only clean up but spruce up. In cooperation with the Garden Council, studies are being made to see which areas need beautification. Already the “Hurley” pots downtown are flourishing with greenery and flowers, and plans are underway to plant crape myrtles and other plants near the Crown Coliseum and in other areas. Residents are being encouraged to look at the entrances to their neighborhoods and see how they can make them more attractive and to keep their own yards clean and planted. (Remember, “It starts with you.”)

To carry out its mission, Fayetteville Beautiful has six subcommittees. They are:

Beautification, Suzanne Rucker and George Quigley co-chairmen; Education, Ferrell Solomon and Elaine Bryant co-chairmen; Communications, Bobby Hurst chairman; Ordinances and Enforcement, Carole Goforth and Monica Luongo co-chairmen; Technology, Stanley “Vic” Victrum, assistant city manager, chairman.

Fayetteville Beautiful leaders and volunteers meet the third Tuesday of each month at 2 p.m. in the Lafayette Room of City Hall. Anyone interested in participating is welcome to attend and sign up to work on a subcommittee. Speakers are available to give programs for interested groups.

Fayetteville Beautiful received a matching grant of $10,000 from the Cumberland Community Foundation, but so far the only expense has been plants for the Hurley pots.

“We are so blessed that so many people are helping,” Hurst said.

Fayetteville Beautiful has the support of the mayor and the City Council, he said, and the cooperation of the city’s Public Works Commission as well as the garrison commander at Fort Bragg. He hopes that the school system will come on board. Civic and other groups are participating.

“The council is committed to removing blight and making this a more beautiful city,” Hurst said. “Within seven years you’ll see a different city.”