Iberville seeks ‘Keep America Beautiful’ approval

Dee Cruise

A group of volunteers is continuing to try to get Iberville Parish certified for the Keep America Beautiful Program, which parish environmentalist John J. Clark hopes will lead cleaner surroundings.

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr., for whom Clark works, has long complained about the amount of money the parish has to spend picking up after litterbugs.

“There are no second chances for first impressions,” Clark said. The beautification effort could improve attitudes at home, but could also serve to impress people – including those representing businesses and industry – to relocate here.

The volunteer committee was supposed to have finished the rigorous requirements for certification by this month, but got a two-month extension because of the disruptions from hurricanes Gustav and Ike, Clark said in a recent interview.

“This program will help us consolidate all our individual efforts that are occurring at different times,” he said.

The national Keep America Beautiful Program requires the parish to form a governing body and to conduct a survey to determine where the litter problems are most prevalent, he said.

“We’re progressing right along. We have a good group of volunteers,” he said, citing help from Dow Chemical and Georgia Gulf, the Iberville Chamber of Commerce and its Image Committee and the parish Department of Tourism. “They are all volunteering their time to make this happen.”

The group already has developed a local Keep America Beautiful logo, he said. Others who wish to donate time or money to the program are welcome to join.

The parish already sponsors neighborhood clean-up days and makes efforts to clean local waterways – as evidenced particularly by the Bayou Grosse Tete Task Force, Clark said. The Parish Council and Keep America Beautiful recently participated in a clean-up day with the Friends of the Atchafalaya Basin at the Bayou Sorrel Boat Landing.

But the bigger push will be toward changing behavior and convincing people not to litter to start with, Clark said.

“Ultimately, what we’re seeking is a behavioral change, and that can be difficult,” he said. “If there’s enough awareness, enough education and demonstration, the people will see and hopefully start to change their behaviors to where they don’t litter.”

“The parish president believes efforts to beautify help community pride,” Clark said. “And, when people have pride in their community, they’re more likely to maintain it and help improve it.”

Clark particularly wants to see parish efforts focused on the entryways to the parish.

“Everyday we have to be ready to sell ourselves to the public or a business looking for a place to locate,” he said. “That’s why we believe this is very important to our parish. We’re focusing on our gateways to beautify those areas to give visitors and our local people a sense of place. That alone can shape a person’s attitude about hat place.”

Clark said he also wants to emphasize recycling programs.

“Litter is a wasted product,” he said. “That’s something we made. Not only that, we have to pay to dispose of it. There are recycling programs that will pay you for your litter.”