THE ISSUE: Community Clean Up.
LOCAL IMPACT: A team of Nebraska City residents is being mobilized to take ownership over the issue of community beautification.
Patty Coates took action and nothing changed.
That might make some people quit. It made Coates curious and determined.
In the summer of last year, Coates said she and a friend were going out on daily three-mile walks and noticed litter here and there along the way. Instead of just leaving the situation the way it was, Coates said the two walkers got garbage bags and picked up the trash.
Days later, the trash had returned, which frustrated Coates. In response, she first tried to inspire change through a Facebook message. Not a call out, but a reach out.
“Come on guys! We can do better than this.”
Unfortunately, the responses turned negative as people called out others, not by name, but with photos of their property.
This was never supposed to be negative. Coates said she loves Nebraska City, its people, its celebrations and its parks. She was just hoping that folks would decide to pick up their trash.
It certainly can’t be something that falls to city employees.
“The city doesn’t have the means or the man power to take care of our litter,” said Coates. “We can’t hold the city responsible to clean up our mess.”
Now what? Head to Google!
Coates said she remembered advertisements for Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and wondered if it still existed. It does and there is a state organization, Keep Nebraska Beautiful (KNB).
From there, Coates said she got in touch with Jane Polson, president of KNB. Coates says she returned to Facebook to see if there was interest in helping. A few people had said they would help clean up after Coates’ original post. And there was still interest.
Polson came down to Nebraska City and met with residents. Unfortunately, due to work, Coates couldn’t attend.
But she did visit in person with Polson at a Nebraska City City Council meeting in August of 2017 and then again, later in that same month, at a KNB Conference.
At the council meeting, Coates gave a presentation where she shared some litter photos with the council members and proposed the idea of Nebraska City making its own organization, Keep Nebraska City Beautiful (KNCB).
The city agreed to move forward in helping to form the group and with helping to hire a part time director for the organization pending a grant award from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. The grant, a waste litter/recycling grant (LB1101), would help fund KNCB.
In addition, a 12-person community team was established. The members of the team participate in groups to achieve goals which would make Nebraska City an official affiliate of KAB.
“They (KAB) have some guidelines and check lists of tings you have to accomplish,” said Coates.
Groups and their official tasks are as follows:
The Focus Research and Inventory Group—which works to create partnerships with organizations that can help KNCB achieve its missions.
The Organization Structure Group—which works to establish by laws, write articles of incorporation, form a mission statement and apply for status as a 501c3.
The Community Appearance Index Group—which is focused on evaluating the litter throughout the community.
The Affiliation Report and Ceremony Group—which makes monthly reports on progress for KNCB projects and operations.
Coates said a lot of the work is done or close to done.
She said the organization is working to establish a logo by enlisting art students from Lourdes to create logos as part of a contest with the winning entry becoming KNCB’s new logo.
In terms of work left to do, the main thing is to complete a litter index. The Community Appearance Index Group has done some of the work associated with the litter index. But, due to the winter weather, has not been able to complete its tasks.
Doing a litter index involves traveling through the community and grading sections of land, be it public, private or business.
The litter index grade begins at (1), which indicates no litter present; to (4), which indicates that the litter present requires equipment or extensive manpower to remove.
Some areas that have been graded already have earned (4) due to junk cars that need to be removed.
Coates said she has established a deadline for the group to check off all of its requirements for KAB affiliate status by March 31.
After that date, the city will establish a nine-person board for KNCB and will help the organization conduct hiring for a part time director. The board would have input on who became the director.
Coates said she will be involved with KNCB as a board member going forward.
The board and its director will work to keep up the three main focus points of KAB, which are litter reduction, recycling and beautification.
Coates said that by starting KNCB, community members are hoping to enhance an already attractive city.
“Nebraska City is a gorgeous town,” Coates said. “There are just some areas that need improvement. If we improve those little things, people might want to come here and live.”
It could also attract new business.
“It’s something that would benefit everyone,” said Coates.
The main focus right now is to keep momentum going and let people know what’s happening.
“We want the community to know that we are pushing forward with this idea,” Coates said. “It will be a reality.”
The included video clip is a 1970s promotional video for Keep America Beautiful. Patty Coates, whose efforts helped start Nebraska City in the direction of membership in the organization said she had remembered the PSA and, after having seen a recurring litter issue in her neighborhood, it was that PSA that inspired her to take action.
Patty Coates talks about the Nebraska City efforts to join Keep America Beautiful.