PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When it comes to picking up trash in Portland, some residents have decided to take matters into their own hands.
A group of roughly 20 volunteers with Adopt One Block organized an unauthorized cleanup on the off ramp of I-5 and Rosa Parks Way Wednesday morning.
They told KOIN 6 News they were willing to trespass on ODOT land and risk legal action in an effort to keep the freeways clear.
“ODOT and PBOT have the trashiest parts of our community and they consistently refuse to get and keep those places clean,” said Frank Moscow, Founder of Adopt One Block. “They’ve got plenty of money, but they refuse to do their job. And that’s why these Portland women who care are here today because they are advocating, as are we, for regular, consistent cleanup of our public spaces.”
The founder of Adopt One Block, a local non-profit which helps citizens clean up the city by providing free supplies and protective gear told KOIN 6 News he helped organize the act of civil disobedience and hopes the “good trouble” communicates the organization’s frustration with the state of the city’s freeways.
“Either consistently keep your land clean or give non-profits like ours unfettered access so we can keep it clean for the community – but somebody’s got to step up,” Moscow stated. “We’re paying taxes, they are awash in money, this is their land, and they are the responsible party for getting in, keeping it clean. We’re tired of excuses this has been going on for years.”
Frustration with Portland’s ongoing trash problem is a sentiment Don Hamilton with ODOT said he completely understands.
“It’s been very difficult. All the litter and the graffiti issues that we’ve been having in the Portland area are quite overwhelming. And I think everybody in the Portland area understands this,” Hamilton said. “We’re working right now with a special $2 million authorization from the legislature that’s put additional graffiti and litter cleanup crews on the streets of Portland right now and will through the end of June next year.”
But as ODOT works to put more crews on the streets of Portland, he said unauthorized cleanups like the one off Rosa Parks Way are unsafe and ill-advised.
“It’s inherently dangerous for anybody unauthorized to be next to the freeway like that,” Hamilton explained. “People can get hurt and get killed on the side of the roads like that. So, we need people to make sure that they have the right equipment, have the right authorization, have the right training to be working at the side of the road like that.”
According to Moscow, Adopt One Block had been in communication with ODOT to try and get ongoing access to clean the city’s freeways approved, but claim the agency would only allow them to have a single-use permit, which would have to be renewed each time the crews wanted to clean a site.
“There is a lack of will, a lack of urgency to get and keep our public places clean,” Moscow told KOIN 6 News. “And we’ve done the normal petitioning of government bodies. We’ve asked for them to give us access to these lands. They turn us down, they turn other organizations down, but yet, they won’t clean it up themselves.”
KOIN 6 News asked ODOT about the permits and was not provided an immediate response.
While the issue may seem like a garbage fight between the city and citizens – Both ODOT and Adopt One Block agreed that a serious trash problem remains Portland, and that it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
“This is what hundreds of thousands of people see every day is the on and off ramps of the freeways,” Moscow said. “This matters in terms of people’s perception of the cleanliness of the entire city.”