‘Keep Iberville Beautiful’: Parish has high hopes for national affiliation

Deidre Cruse
GOING GREEN...Parish Permits and Environmental Manager John Clark, talking to Math, Science and Arts Academy-West students at an assembly last week, said recyling would be the norm for today’s students. “By the time they’re adults, it will be the norm,” he said. The recycling effort was kicked off just a day before Iberville Parish was certified as an affiliate of the Keep America Beautiful Program, which Clark said emphasizes reducing waste, along projects to reduce litter and to beautify the area.

The national Keep America Beautiful program certified Iberville Parish Friday as an official member, opening the way to technical support and grant funding.

“Now, it’s ‘Keep Iberville Beautiful,’” said John Clark, the parish’s permits and environmental manager.

“Ultimately, this is something that is going to benefit everyone, and something that everyone can be proud of,” he said.

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. assigned Clark to head the clean-up and beautification effort in hopes of saving Solid Waste Director Brian S. Willis’s department some work and the public the expense of cleaning up after litterbugs.

Both Clark and Willis spoke to students at the Math, Science and Arts Academy-West as an education program on recycling was launched last Thursday. Although the MSA hosted the kick-off program, all the parish’s public schools are participating in the recycling effort.

A day later Clark and five other members of the Keep America Beautiful Committee completed a three-program that completed the extensive process of affiliating with the national organization. Dow Chemical paid the affiliation fee.

Hayley Brown of Georgia Gulf, Jordan Tremblay of Dow, Brenda Ourso of the Iberville Chamber of Commerce, retired parish tourism director Lina Migliacio and Kathy Saurage of Plaquemine serve with Clark on the committee.

Cecille Carson, a Keep America Beautiful representative from Washington, D. C., and Leigh Harris, representing Keep Louisiana Beautiful, conducted the program.

Iberville has become one of 40 parishes, cities and communities to affiliate with the national program, Clark said. West Baton Rouge Parish also is a new affiliate.

“They gave us a really nice official plaque,” he said.

More important, Clark said are the resources the program will make available – information on what has worked in other areas, technical support and grants for various projects.

Keep America Beautiful emphasizes not only litter control, but reducing waste, including recycling, and beautification, Clark said.

As its first project, the local committee is planning to join in the national “Great American Cleanup,” a clean-up day scheduled between March 1 and May 31 that is touted as the “nation’s largest community program.”

In 2006, some two million volunteers worked 7.1 million hours on the project, Clark said.

Keep Iberville Beautiful is working with the Plaquemine Garden Club to improve the gateways to the city, Clark said, “not only to beautify the parish, but also to restore and enhance the sense of place. Nothing helps with that more than the native plants – live oaks, cypress, irises.”

“When we have visitors in here, there’ll be no question where they are,” he said. “It’s not like a bunch of palm trees and cactus. It’s going to feel like southern Louisiana.”

The local organization also will look at ways to enforce the existing ordinances against littering, Clark said. The members plan to visit Lafayette and Tangipahoa parishes, which have successful litter courts.

“We have a lot of ordinances that address every aspect of littering, but the challenge has been enforcing them,” Clark said. “Ultimately, we might have to make people realize there is a consequence to this.”

Clark also had high hopes for the in-school recyling program, getting children in the habit of recyling goods to save raw materials, manpower and gasoline, as well as reducing pollution and the need for landfill space.

“They’re hearing more about it than we are – go green,” he said. “They’re young, and they can do something about it. By the time they become adults, it will be the norm.”

EDUCATING A GREEN GENERATION...Iberville Parish Solid Waste Director Brian S. Willis talks to students about an in-school recycling effort and education effort that was launched in parish public schools last Thursday. Willis, an elected school board member from Plaquemine, was one of host of officials who kicked off the program at an assembly at the Math, Science and Arts Academy-West (formerly E. J. Gay School). The academy’s director, Elvis J. Cavalier, the author of a children’s book on environmentalism, and academy students sported green “Iberville Parish Recylcing Team” t-shirts.
-- Photo courtesy of Elvis J. Cavalier