What makes a community like Sumner special? Is it the tree lined streets? Is it the mountain off in the distance silently keeping watch? Is it the river or the quaint shops? Is it the people and the neighborhoods? Yes...and yet it is much more than that.
After accepting the position of Program Manager for the Sumner Downtown Association, I've had the opportunity to do something I've never had the chance to do before. Rather than drive my car to work, I have been able to ride my bike or simply walk. It was during such moments a few rather ugly sides to our wonderful community came to light and through this blog, I'd like to see if I (or we as a community) can do something about it.
Upon arriving to work last week, someone left me the gift of several empty beer cans outside our front door. While they were neatly placed along the wall, the depositor needed only to walk twenty feet more to the trash can.
A day or so later as I was walking to Main Street past Heritage Park, I took note of a gentleman smoking a cirgarette. Something told me to keep watching him as I knew what was coming next. And, sure enough he did not disappoint me. Taking one last puff, he dropped his cigarette butt on the ground, stepped on it and began to walk away.
So, I asked "Hey, do you live in Sumner?" He answered that he did. Next I asked "What do you like about living here?" He answered that it was a nice town. Finally, I inquired, "Do you think if everyone, who smoked in town, felt it was okay to drop their cigarette butts on the ground and leave them, all the while knowing the town would be full of butts littering the parks and sidewalks of town..that it would be okay? He sheepishly looked at me and said, "No, that would not be okay and I'm sorry." He quickly picked up his butt, made sure it was out and dumped it in the trash.
Quickly I thanked him and smiled. As I left I said, "If everyone would take those same two seconds to consider the longterm affects of your prior actions, don't you think Sumner would really be a sparkling town?" He answered with a firm yes and a big smile. Thanking him, I was on my way. I'd like to add, not all smokers are this disrespectful and to those who play by the rules, as a citizen of Sumner, I appreciate your dedication to keeping our community and streets free of butts.
Just a day or so later, I witnessed another such act. A driver was at the all way stop waiting for the train to pass so traffic could move forward. As I was crossing the crosswalk to the bank, at the left of my foot dropped a cigarette butt. Can you guess what I did? Yes, I went into my education talk until he got out of the truck and picked up his cigarette too! Again, he was clearly embarassed that he was caught doing what he surely knew to be wrong.
My last story comes from my own neighborhood on Parker Road East. Deciding to take an afternoon bike ride, I headed down Parker. As I neared Elm, some neighborhood kids came driving by tossing an entire bag of McDonalds leftovers into the street. Once again, I stopped to pick up the trash, turned my bike around and followed the white truck into my neighbors driveway. A young man in his late teens got out of the truck and I yelled out to him.
He was not yet aware his McDonalds trash was stuffed into the basket on the front of my bike. So, I introduced myself as his neighbor and asked if he liked living on Parker Road. Like the others before, he responded with a resounding "yes!" I asked what it was he liked about it. He replied "It's a nice upscale neighborhood and the neighbors were pretty nice...even when he played his music pretty loud outside." Then, here it came...my moment of truth. As I pulled the McDonald's bag out of my basket, you could see the embarassment on his face and he knew what was coming.
"Where is your trash can?" I asked. "Uh, it's over there." pointing to the front of the garage. "Give me your hand." I requested. He reached out and into his hand I placed his litter. "Could you please be sure that in the future you place your litter into your trash can and not into our "upscale, nice neighbor filled" street?" He quickly apologized, placed the litter into the trash can and said he'd be more restrained in the future.
What has happened to people in our pristine communities? Are they just lacking in manners, forget it's their town too or simply too darned lazy to do what they know is right versus what seems easiest? I've taken some risks in my actions because I love Sumner. How our streets, parks and sidewalks look to visitors expose our shortcomings.
Store keepers constantly find cigarette butts or tiny liquor bottles stuffed into their flower boxes outside their stores. Some town folk have even been as bold as to smoke their cigarettes on the back stoops of our retailers; leaving behind piles of butts to be cleaned by anyone other than themselves. Trash is regularly tossed outside of windows such as plastic candy wrappers, pop cans, gum wrappers and the like. Have we become so lacking in community pride that we just accept these incidences when they occur?
What I'm proposing is a community challenge. If you are one of those who drops a butt or tosses a small piece of litter on occasion...I challenge you to take steps to do the opposite. Try being an active part of the community in which you live and work to improve the way Sumner looks. For those of you who have witnessed such acts, take a moment to educate those who are doing the dumping. It's amazing how embarassed they are and how quick they are to clean up after themselves when they've been caught.
In the end, I think we all want to be good stewards of Sumner. For some, a little shove in the right direction is all they need. If we take some pride in our community, our visitors will respect it as well during their time here. In a few weeks, the Sumner Merchants and Sumner Downtown Association are planning a Clean Sweep Project. We will be looking for citizens who want to beautify our downtown to maintain the community pride we have for Sumner. Please watch for this invitation. If you are interested, please call our office at 253-720-9846 for volunteer information.
Remember, everyone likes to live in a clean, well-maintained community. I'm sure all towns, large and small, fight these same challenges. However, wouldn't it be nice if we took the steps to be one level above the "ugly" by being proactive in our approach? Yes, it does take an effort on everyone's behalf. While that does mean a little bit of work, the outcome will be well worth it. Then we can be proud to say "Sumner, our home town!"