Denver woman launches attack on litter

Patty Korn with litter she collected from Lincoln County roadsides.

Patty Korn with litter she collected from Lincoln County roadsides.

MATT CHAPMAN

Staff Writer

A Denver woman who has been cleaning the streets of her community for more than a decade is in search of others with a passion for environmental protection to join her fight against littering.

Patty Korn — a 20-year veteran of the United States Air Force who moved to Denver in 2004 — is hard to miss while scouring the streets for litter in her neon yellow outfit. What’s harder to find, however, are other county residents willing to dedicate the time and effort to a task usually reserved for inmates and offenders with community service obligations.

“I do it because I think that our county has a problem with roadside litter,” Korn said. “If affects our quality of life and it’s an environmental hazard. I look at litter as a cancer on the environment. It’s frustrating because I clean up the same roads over and over and over again, and it comes back so fast.”

At first, Korn only volunteered her roadside litter pickup services within her own neighborhood. Then, in 2011, she expanded her efforts in an attempt to clean up many of the major roads in Denver such as Highway 16, Highway 73 and Optimist Club Road.

Korn has now set her sights even higher, but she needs help to extend her operation countywide. That’s why Korn has championed the effort to make Lincoln County an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. Her organization, Keep Lincoln County Beautiful, met for the first time in June with four people, including herself, in attendance.

Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit organization founded in 1953, is the largest community improvement organization in the United States, with more than 620 state and community-based affiliate organizations. Keep America Beautiful focuses on three key issues: litter prevention, waste reduction/recycling and community greening and beautification.

Korn’s first step toward affiliating Lincoln County with Keep America Beautiful is to identify a minimum of 8-10 individuals willing to dedicate time to monthly committee meetings and initial affiliate training. Keep Lincoln County Beautiful will then need to secure $4,000 to fund the hands-on training administered by a Keep America Beautiful national trainer, which includes guidance on how to implement the programs and a strategic planning and goal setting session for the new affiliate board.

“There’s going to be a financial commitment, but Keep America Beautiful is recognized nationally,” Korn said. “They have proven strategies, starting with a behavioral change process that has worked for communities both small and large. It can’t hurt, you know, it can only help our county. To me, given the fact that our needs are so great, that doesn’t seem like a lot of money when you consider everything that we need to accomplish. Hopefully, like Keep America Beautiful says, we can inspire a generation of environmental stewards.”

Korn has already identified several projects for Keep Lincoln County Beautiful such as working with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to plant flowers alongside Highway 16 Bypass. She’d also like to partner with local churches for cleanup projects at Lake Norman and reach out to schools or scout troops that might be interested in adopting a local park or trail to keep clean.

Keep Lincoln County Beautiful is also committed to influencing county government to adopt a stormwater ordinance, as well as tree ordinances that would prevent clear-cutting, which has already occurred on at least two occasions for the Covington at Lake Norman development and also along Campground Road. Korn and others have addressed the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners on multiple occasions in recent years regarding a stormwater ordinance to combat runoff from construction sites and it appears as though their persistence may finally be rewarded.

Commissioner Rich Permenter told the Times-News that he will be meeting with members of the Lincoln County Soil and Water Board in the near future to discuss a potential stormwater ordinance.

“The whole purpose of these meetings is to head toward a stormwater ordinance,” Permenter said. “For the past several weeks I’ve been trying to go through the statutes to look at how to establish a stormwater ordinance. There are bound to be laws, restrictions and regulations on what a county may, or may not do since this is not a home rule state. This sounds bureaucratic as hell, but at this point I’m really truly trying to define the box within which we must operate and then define the problem we’re attempting to address to a very specific level. This is obviously a very big issue in the eastern part of the county primarily due to sediment-laden runoff into Lake Norman.”

Those interested in more information about Keep Lincoln County Beautiful can contact Korn via email at pattykornpjk@aol.com or by calling (704) 451-7313. Korn is also raising money to assist her volunteer roadside litter pickup efforts and donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/litterfree-denver-nc.

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