Taking out the trash
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Thursday, August 18, 2011
8/18/11 at 7:35 AM
Cleanup efforts by neighbors, the city and volunteers might have started a renaissance in the Charles Page neighborhood west of downtown Tulsa.
Work began this week on the third phase of a trash-hauling effort that has residents piling huge mounds of trash at the curb for the city to take away, neighborhood association President J.D. Smith said.
City cranes and trucks will be in the neighborhood for the rest of the week to haul out decades of accumulated trash, he said.
One house had accumulated so many old couches and mattresses that it alone will account for 10 truckloads of debris, Smith said.
Another house's backyard had a large collection of dirty old fruit jars that turned out to be left from a former resident's long-gone moonshining operation, he said.
Almost every house has a mound of trash in front of it waiting for the city. Old barbecue grills, lawn chairs, broken toys, rotted wood and yard debris is being taken away.
"It's a lesson in humanity, really," Smith said.
The effort was initiated by the city's Working in Neighborhoods Division in June, said Cassandra Love, a city neighborhood liaison.
Twice this year, the city has hauled trash from sections of the neighborhood. This week's effort concentrates on 420 homes in the area bounded by 33rd and 41st West avenues, Charles Page Boulevard and the Katy Trail.
The work will return to another part of the neighborhood on Sept. 11, Love said. The city plans to continue working in the neighborhood into 2013, she said.
The city's Neighborhood Enhancement Teams initiatives concentrate city services in troubled areas, but the underlying intent is to foster stronger neighborhood associations that will take responsibility for their own efforts, Love said.
"Our job as neighborhood liaisons is to empower neighborhoods," she said.
The initiatives can have a remarkable effect: connecting neighbors in conversations that lead in all sorts of civic directions, she said.
Smith, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1982, said many of the residents were blue-collar workers at the once-thriving factories that dot Charles Page Boulevard toward downtown, many of them oil industry-related.
Bounded by Edison Street and the Arkansas River from 33rd to 65th West avenues, the area was largely forgotten when those industries started drying up, he said.
That started a long decline for the area, but thanks to the cleanup effort, all sorts of things are happening in the neighborhood, Smith said.
More people have started showing up at neighborhood association meetings.
There's more interest in doing something about the long-closed Riley Elementary School building, getting abandoned buildings torn down and rejuvenating an area park, he said.
In general, Smith said, the cleanup has sparked a new sense of optimism for the neighborhood.
"We're really coming along," he said.
Love said the effort wouldn't be possible without the help of the city's Streets and Stormwater departments - which help with the tons of hauling involved - and Asbury United Methodist Church volunteers, who have helped people who physically aren't able to haul their own trash to the curb.
Betty Higgins, a coordinator with Asbury's Second Saturday Initiative, said as many as 100 volunteers from the church will be working in the neighborhood on Sept. 11, and the team plans to return to the area in October and November.
She said it has been fun to watch the outcomes of the work in the neighborhood.
"They are excited," she said. "It's a great neighborhood."
How you can help
To help with the Asbury Second Saturday effort in the Charles Page neighborhood, call 918-492-1771.
Neighborhood associations that are interested in a Neighborhood Enhancement Team initiative should call 918-576-5634.
Original Print Headline: Taking out the trash
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
A city maintenance crew clears debris from a block of 35th West Avenue in the Charles Page neighborhood on Wednesday. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World
Worn furniture sits in the front yard of a property on 36th West Avenue on Tuesday. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World
A city worker uses heavy machinery Wednesday to haul away a mattress from a block of 35th West Avenue in the Charles Page neighborhood. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World
A pile of trash sits in front of a home at the intersection of First Street and 36th West Place on Tuesday. Residents in the area have set out trash to curbs as part of a cleanup effort. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World
A television set and other items are discarded to the curb for pickup by city crews in the Charles Page neighborhood. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World