North Port St. Joe residents see rise in trash

In October, the Knights of Pythias spent hours cleaning the streets of North Port St. Joe, piling up garbage bags filled with trash and taking breaks from the unseasonable heat under a tent they pitched on the empty lot next to their lodge.


But just a few weeks later, the trash began to pile up again.


It’s an issue that’s been plaguing some of the neighborhood’s residents, who say that keeping the streets clean and clear not only improves the  aesthetics of the community, but the health and safety of its residents.


“On North Garrison, there is a substantial amount of trash,” said Kim Miller, who is in the process of setting up a community garden in North Port St. Joe, in the Dec. 7 City Commission meeting. “It’s a lot worse now than it used to be.”


“Recently, on a Friday morning, I was over at the garden. It was probably around 7 a.m.,” she continued, “and there was a full grown bear with three relatively large cubs going through the trash and going around the fence of the garden and into the woods behind the garden.”


Miller expressed concerns that the bears were setting up a den in the woods near a trail frequented by local children looking for a shortcut to the Washington High School Gym.


The city sends out clean up crews in North Port St. Joe from time to time, often inmates from the Gulf County Correctional Facility, and sometimes organizations, like the Knights of Pythias, or the occasional good samaritan will gather to collect rubbish from Avenue A or North Garrison. But residents say they rarely see these efforts have any lasting impacts on the cleanliness of their streets long-term.


“The trash in North Port St. Joe, and that’s my neighborhood,” said Chester Davis. “So, I noticed one day, the inmates, they went down Avenue A, from Bower Street to 71, cleaning up. The next day, people are just throwing stuff out there again.”


Davis, a prominent figure in the community, said he is tired of watching clean up crews work in vain, and he came with a potential solution – not one he was sure would work, but one he hoped commissioners might consider.


“I was going to ask the chief (of police) if we could set up some cameras and do something about that, because it’s a headache for me to look at my community being clean one day and the next week it’s in worse shape than it was before.”


Another North Port St. Joe resident piped up with his suggestion.


“I know that periodically we have amnesty days for our hazmats, right?” asked George Foxworth. “Can we also do the same thing for garbage? I mean, not household garbage, but trash, furniture, stuff like that.”


While commissioners were unable to decisively find a solution to the neighborhood’s growing trash problem in the meeting, they agreed to maintain a conversation about the problem and to take ideas for solutions.


Mayor Rex Buzzett said that both cameras and pickup days had been discussed and attempted to some degree by the city before, with varying degrees of success. But he and the other commissioners seemed open to attempting these solutions again with a little more rigor.


“People that put trash out are responsible for it, and it happens all over the City of Port St. Joe,” said Mayor Rex Buzzett. “And the only way we have any enforcement is if we catch them.”


“If there’s some real problem areas, I think the chief would work with you, and we certainly want to work with you, because it does look bad for all of us.”


Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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