Pick up Providence

by Nancy Thomas

When our needs are so great with the pandemic, jobs and economic crisis, education, food, housing, etc., the issue of trash in our neighborhoods might seem like an unimportant issue right now.

If we have learned anything in these times it is how simple things can help us get through this time of anxiety and stress. It’s the kindness we express to one another, the ability to go for a ride to “get out”, while not really getting out, or getting some takeout.

We talk about cleanliness – washing our hands, sanitizing our surfaces – being as careful as we can about spreading of germs.

Litter. Trash on the side of the road. We, as a country, were doing a pretty good job of this a generation or so ago. Today it’s slipping away.

Providence, our capital city, is losing its pride. You can see it on the sides of the road. Not only does the city not seem to care not even business owners care. Thinking about the store keeper whose first job in the morning was to sweep the sidewalk in front of their store. Remember street sweepers humming along in the morning? Litter pick up crews?

A reader sent these photos he had seen on Facebook. Paul Griffin, a retired Teamster, had posted them. It looked like a storm had passed, or a flood, leaving its trash behind. But it’s just what accumulates on a regular basis on this road – Cadillac Drive. It’s typical of so many, many other streets in Providence and other cities in Rhode Island.

We can talk about the root cause of the trash on the side of the roads. We can talk about lack of pride, feelings of frustration or anger, or a flippant “let someone else take care of it – it’s their job” attitude.

We can have programs in our schools. We can give out tickets and assess fines.

We can debate if it’s a city road or a state road. And whose responsible for cleaning it up.

Politicians can talk about it. Just like they talk about potholes. And bad graffiti and damage on buildings. And rats living where people live. And surely, budgets will always come into the conversation.

How about we just pick it up?

There are people and jobs to do this in Providence and in the state. There are departments responsible. Businesses who are victims of trash thrown on their property have a responsibility to clean it up. Show some pride.

So while we look at special programs for this and that, and new ventures for Providence, we know how important the basics are – clean streets, fixed-up roads, personal safety, safe schools, picking up the trash. How about we cut out the dead trees and clean up the unsightly branches that are lining the highways in the state, while we are at it?

In our growing list of priorities in life, this might be far down on the list. We may read this and think it’s not important right now.

But can you imagine if unsightly, unhealthy areas were cleaned up, trees trimmed, maybe a handful or two of wildflower seeds strewn around for good measure?

We got in touch with the Providence City Council person for the area – Carmen Castillo – and asked for comment. She said she would send this to DPW (Dept. of Public Works) and wasn’t sure if it was the city’s job or the state’s. She thanked us for caring for the neighborhood and responded with “I am taking care” when we asked “Are you saying you will take care of having it cleaned up?”. We’ll hold her to it – because as in many things in life – it takes one person to say they’ll take responsibility and see it through. And thanks to the person who cared enough to stop and take some photos, post them on social media that’s getting such a bad rap these days – because now the wheels are turning, and – we’ll check back and let you know if they turn smoothly or get all jammed up.

Pick it up, Providence.


  1. Lesley Maxwell on January 24, 2021 at 6:52 pm

    I just wish I could say I’m surprised. I’m not because no matter where I go, I see it. Try Wellington Ave., near the old railroad bridge. The bridge has been covered with graffiti for years (how anyone got up there is beyond me since it’s on the side, over the river) but recently, someone had painted over all of it. The bridge is ugly and I don’t believe it’s in use anymore. I had to go that way a couple of weeks after the clean-up and some graffiti is back.
    How about having able-bodied people who are subject to community service do some clean-up? I’m suggesting a street like this – not a major highway but the side streets. The city provides a truck, bags, gloves, rakes with only one (not a dozen!) DPW workers to oversee and help. The worker can sign the form saying they completed xxx hours of community service. I wonder if community service is even enforced.

  2. LT on January 24, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    Warwick is the same. There is trash everywhere. It’s terrible!