One of the greatest charms of Apalachicola, besides its residents of course, is the historic district’s classic grid of streets, facing southward toward the bay, and avenues, facing eastward toward our beloved river.
I say “classic,” because even the ancient Romans utilized grid plans in laying out towns throughout Italy and around the empire. But Apalach’s city planners did the ancients one better with our charming and functional network of alleys, a distinctive feature of our nearly unique coastal village. Romans all too often tossed their garbage into the streets (a practice derided by the 2nd-century A.D. satirist Juvenal), whereas Apalachicolans have for many years tucked our waste receptacles more or less out of sight into our alleyways.
Now that practice seems destined to change, thanks to a recent, ill-advised 3-2 vote of the city commission, encouraged by City Manager Travis Wade. (See Dec. 16 Times “Trash pick-up to move out of alleys.”) All the reasons given at the commission meeting by opponents of the proposed new practice of hauling trash cans to the street in front of our homes should have carried the day and killed the proposal: (a) if the condition of some of our alleys presents problems for the corporate Waste Pro trucks, then we should be repairing the alleys, leveling and re-graveling them when needed, keeping obstructive foliage pruned away (or requiring residents to do so), and otherwise maintaining them; (b) hauling heavy receptacles to the street can be a real hardship for folks elderly and disabled; (c) wear-and-tear to the streets and avenues themselves will increase; and (d) some residents and visitors will neglect to bring the cans back into their yards promptly after pick-up, leaving them streetside for days on end.
Every bit as vital is our community’s aesthetic, a most important consideration not merely for our residents but certainly also for tourism, which flourishes largely due to the town’s beauty and, to adapt a realtor’s phrase, its “curb appeal.” Replacing the vistas provided by the town’s grid, for folks living both north and south of Avenue E, we can anticipate seeing all the streets in front of our homes and yards cluttered with lines of hundreds upon hundreds of garbage cans, and not just on pick-up days but on the days following when, for whatever reasons, good or bad, folks will not return their bins to their proper location tucked into the alleys or behind their houses.
The decision to move garbage collection to the streets was an error, motivated, I’d say, by misplaced priorities and not, one would hope, by corporate pressures (making things a bit easier for Waste Pro, whose revenues for 2022 are projected to approach $1 billion). Let’s please urge our local government to reconsider this decision and to resolve the perceived problems allegedly behind it by allocating funds for better maintenance of our historic alleyways. I think we (nearly) all, residents and tourists alike, want to see our streets and avenues lined with cozy homes and beautiful yards and gardens and not by a sprawling array of garbage bins and heaped up household trash.
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