Good Samaritan in Caldwell County cleaning up Plum Creek
By Kristen Meriwether
When driving down the rural roads of Caldwell County, it’s not hard to find trash dumped along the sides. Most of us drive on by, maybe saying a choice word or two about the person who left it, and then go on about our day.
Nick Ellingson is not most people.
On Dec. 29 of last year Ellingson said he found 10 tires dumped from Old Kelley Road onto the banks of Plum Creek. Instead of just driving by, he decided to take action.
“I just wanted to do something about it,” Ellingson said by phone Jan. 8. “I just wanted to get my boots dirty, get the tires out of there because the longer they sit there and disintegrate, it causes an environmental hazard.”
He fished the tires out of the creek and posted to the Lockhart-Caldwell County Discussion group on Facebook. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
“This is extremely kind of you to do. Thank you for being an outstanding citizen and making a difference. I have lived on Old Kelley Rd. for about 10 years and my husband’s family has been here for 25 years. It disgusts me that people think a county road is a dumping ground,” Kimberly Morse-Clifton said in the Facebook post. “I’m sure this happens on other roads, but we see it on Old Kelley far too often. Tires, furniture, appliances. You name it. Thank you, again, for being such an outstanding citizen!”
Ellingson decided to make the trash pickup a weekly event. He goes down weekly (weather permitting) with a trash bag and walks along the banks of the creek to pick up what illegal dumpers have left.
He said he has found T.V.s, couches, tables, and of course more tires. He takes items small enough for him to carry back up to his pickup with him. He said he will need help to get some of the larger pieces out of the creek and up the banks. But several people in the group on Facebook have already offered a hand.
Ellingson planned to discard of the tires, paying the fee out of his own pocket. But Julie Price posted in the group thread and offered to take the tires to use for a retaining wall. Ellingson reported he delivered them to her and was happy to see them repurposed.
It is illegal to dump trash onto county roads, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it. Ellingson said he reported what he found to the Caldwell County Sheriff’s office, who referred him to the Unit Road Division.
He also called Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden, who was very thankful for someone offering to be a part of the solution.
Judge Haden said the county is happy to deal with the trash that’s been pulled out, so Ellingson doesn’t have to pay any fees to recycle the tires.
“If he’s willing to go that extra mile, and pull it all out of the creek, and put it in a pile, then we will send Unit Road over to pick it up,” Judge Haden said by phone Jan. 11.
Suggestions had been made on Facebook about putting in game cameras to capture those dumping trash, something Ellingson said he was for. But Haden said he didn’t have money in the budget for such an allocation.
For now, it’s up to Ellingson and any other good Samaritan willing to help clean up what others illegally leave behind.
“I have some time on my hands,” Ellingson said. “I might as well put it to good use.”