Community Leadership and Coordination | Awareness | Education | Beautification | Litter Prevention and Cleanup | Solid Waste | Litter Law and Illegal Dumping
Community Leadership and Coordination: Tall grasses sway in the breeze. A coyote rests beneath a thick layer of underbrush. In the distance, a red-tailed hawk rides a thermal, its sharp eyes watchful for small prey. Such was the sight greeting early settlers to Grand Prairie. In 1861, Alexander Dechman learned he could trade his wagon and oxen for land in Dallas County. He subsequently bought 239.5 acres in what is now downtown Grand Prairie. It was named “Grand Prairie” because of its location on the eastern edge of the vast grand prairie that stretched into West Texas. Present day Grand Prairie is a diverse community of 81 square miles in 4 counties with more than 164,000 residents who are 30ish, dual-income homeowners. Our motto is “Dream Big – Play Hard!”
Grand Prairie is affiliated with KTB and KAB, and is a Clean Texas member and a member of the American Community Gardening Association, the North Texas Corporate Recycling Association, the Greater DFW Recycling Alliance, the Sold Waste Association of North America, and the Trinity River Environmental Education Society.
Keep Grand Prairie Beautiful (KGPB) is a service offered by the City of Grand Prairie’s Special Projects Office in the City Manager’s Office. Funded primarily by the City, KGPB’s 2010 budget from the City was $160,000, including salaries, facilities and operating supplies. Volunteers donate time and corporate members donate resources to help with projects. Last year we received Solid Waste grants of $70,000 for a marketing program for curbside recycling and $80,000 to renovate our Kirby Creek compost education site. We also received a $10,000 Community Improvement Grant from KAB and UPS for a new community garden.
KGPB is managed by a full-time coordinator and a full time assistant. A volunteer helps in the office. A 9-member, city council-appointed KGPB Commission guides policy and programming. The KGPB Commission attends an annual training/planning retreat and KAB Litter Survey training.
Shady Grove Community Garden and Orchard Planning Meeting
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Public Awareness: KGPB is promoted through its webpage and through the city’s website. KGPB is regularly featured on the city’s Green Cable programs and on Council Member Ruthe Jackson’s bi-monthly shows. These shows are available 24-7 on the city’s website. Pop-up displays are used for various booths and press releases are sent to local news outlets. Brochures are distributed for programs, such as Adopt-A-Street, Adopt-A-Stream and Tool Loaning programs. All brochures are downloadable from our website. We use Great American Cleanup and KTB Waterway cleanup signage and e-mail lists to publicize events. We partnered with other groups to show environmentally-themed movies at newly-renovated Uptown Theater. Televised City Council proclamations, our Facebook page, and YouTube videos promote awareness. We deliver flyers door-to-door for neighborhood meetings and events and install signage on corners. All materials are in English and Spanish and we provide Spanish translation at all of our meetings.
Measurable Results - KGPB was promoted through 205.5 cable TV hours including news stories, talk shows and televised presentations and 872 column inches of newspaper coverage. KGPB conducted 30 presentations reaching more than 9,400 people, including participants in our Master Composter, ShadeMaker Citizen Forestry, Rainwater Harvesting, Native Landscaping and Gardening presentations and presentations to neighborhood associations, City Council meetings, schools and attendees at Earth Day and other events. Don’t Mess With Texas PSAs are shown several times a day on cable channel 16. Our Litter Free Hotline includes the Don’t Mess With Texas Report a Litterer information. Our newest PSA was created based on TxDOT’s 2009 Attitudes and Behaviors Research showing only 4% of respondents connected the “Don’t Mess With Texas” message with litter laws. The PSA and billboards feature a police officer explaining the law and penalties.
Separate award events recognize our top Adopt-A-Street and Adopt-A-Stream groups and Green & Clean Campus programs. Volunteers are rewarded at all events with giveaways, free lunches and prizes. Junior Master Gardeners receive lapel pins and certificates. Graduating Master Composters are annually recognized during a City Council meeting and Clean Company members can earn our prestigious 5-Star rating and plaques for display at their businesses. We recognize Light Up Grand Prairie! (residential Christmas decorating contest) winners at a reception with certificates and, to their delight, KTB ornaments. In December 2010, KGPB received the 1st Place National KAB Affiliate Award. Other KGPB awards include the President’s Circle Award, recognition from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for our Community Gardening program, 1st Place in the North Texas Corporate Recycling Association’s Green 3 Awards and 1st First Place from the Greater DFW Recycling Alliance for our Green & Clean Campus program.
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Education: Our Clean & Beautiful Neighborhoods program is a vehicle for environmental education, as is our ShadeMakers Citizen Forestry Program where participants can earn a free trees through our NeighborWoods program. We also host Earth Day and Texas America Recycles Day events, including E-Waste collections. KGPB coordinates a Community Gardening program with monthly support meetings for the gardeners and a community wide Arbor Day event wraps up with distribution of thousands of free seedlings. Other educational events and projects include our Master Composter Program, Watershed Signage Project, Adopt-A-Stream Water Quality Monitoring Program and Trash-Offs.
Environmental Education at Schools - KGPB partners with the GPISD for our Green & Clean Campus Program (GCCP). All 37 schools, and several private schools participate. KGPB hosts monthly meetings for the GCCP coordinators to brainstorm and network All GCCPs (all schools) have Green Teams for recycling and several participate in our Adopt-A-Street and Adopt-A-Stream Programs. We have also partnered with Real School Gardens to develop outdoor learning gardens at all Title 1 elementary schools. General Motors sponsors our Earth Force program for middle schools which resulted in the creation of a full-fledged Trinity River Watershed Conference. Many schools have after school Earth clubs to learn and conduct service projects benefiting the environment. Our Clean & Beautiful Neighborhood meetings, which include Composting 101 trainings and other workshops, are hosted at elementary schools. KGPB participates in the GPISD’s Mayfest event – an environmental education event at the Kirby Creek Nature Center.
Youth Involvement - Youth activities include our GCCP program offered during the school year and our Youth for Environmental Action (YEA!) program offered year round for individuals and groups. The city also has a Youth Advisory Council to seek input related to all city policies, including environmental policies. We host several Junior Master Gardener Programs with schools, a home school group and an after school program. The GP Chamber of Commerce coordinates the Great Texas Scholars program for high school seniors who can complete the required community service hours with KGPB.
Environmental Curricula – Several years ago, KGPB secured Solid Waste grant funding to purchase “Waste In Place” curriculum and training for all GCCP Coordinators. Another grant purchased 36 Teacher/Leader Junior Master Gardener book sets and 100 student JMG books that we continue to use. We’ve hosted Waste In Place trainings, Junior Master Gardener and Junior Master Composter trainings which the GPISD granted professional development hours to participating teachers. We’ve also paid for and hosted the National WildLife Federation’s Schoolyard Habitat training program and the GPISD has hosted Project Wet and Project WILD trainings. This last year, we received Real School Gardens grants that includes TEKS-related professional development. Four of our schools used Title 1 funds to purchase the Life Lab environmental science curriculum and training for their entire staffs. KGPB distributes the “236 Million Tons of Trash” poster to the GCCP Coordinators and encourages them to use KAB’s Clean Sweep USA and Toolbox for Community Change websites. The GPISD superintendent created a sub-committee comprised of our GCCP Coordinators to meld environmental curriculum into the district’s C-Scope curriculum; thus making environmental education a daily part of education in the GPISD.
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Beautification and Community Improvement: Last year, KGPB launched a Community Garden Incubator program to start new community gardens. We have 6 community gardens with 4 more in the design and construction process.
Our ShadeMaker Citizen Foresty Program trains residents and volunteers to care for and properly select and plant new trees. We also train volunteers to help senior citizens with tree-related requests through our Adopt-A-Senior Program. KGPB coordinates the City’s Percent for Streetscaping Program through which 2-6 percent of a road construction budget is included for beautification. KGPB also coordinates the City’s Percent for Art Program which requires up to 2% of new facility budgets be set aside for an art project. Last year the city built a $454 million dollar LEED certified Active Adult Center and a new Public Safety Center generating our largest Percent for Art budget to date. As a result, in June 2010, we unveiled a 45-foot- tall Willow Tree with 80,000 hand-hewn mother of pearl leaves new mural for our Public Safety Center.
Mayor Pro Tem Ruthe Jackson with Eagle Scout Eric McDaniel.
All eligible Adopt-A-Highway segments are adopted and 111 segments of city arterial and collector streets have been adopted through our local Adopt-A-Street Program. The city supplements TxDOT mowing along HWY 180, FM 1382 and along HWY 303. KGPB maintains the intersections of I-30 at Belt Line where we have landscaping and a mural and at MacArthur and I-30 where we have a landscaping project. We collect litter on all major roadways, including the state right-of-ways. The KGPB Commission, along with city council members conduct an annual KAB Litter Survey. The winter/early spring 2010 survey resulted in a score of 1.5 down from a 1.9 the previous year.
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Litter Prevention and Cleanup: Last year KGPB took over the city’s litter collection contract which we implemented through our job training program for ex-offenders who get paid for to work on the litter crew. KGPB also gets to prioritize the roads to be cleaned. Last year, the litter crew collected 77.03 tons of litter from 1,200 miles of streets. Our Parks Department also has a full time litter crew to clean parks. We have 111 Adopt-A-Street contracts with groups and/or individuals. Via required quarterly cleanups, 2,028 volunteers worked 7,098 hours to conduct 384 cleanups along 376 miles of streets bagging 11.03 tons of litter this year. 298 Adopt-A-Stream volunteers, from 13 groups worked 1,043 hours cleaning 8.75 miles of streams. The city also has a street sweeping contract for all major thoroughfares. KGPB sponsored 45 grassroots neighborhood and creek cleanups resulting in excess of 23 tons of litter being bagged by volunteers! We hosted 59 Great American Cleanup events, including a Don’t Mess With Texas Trash-Off and 21 cleanup and beautification projects on April 10. We have a Litter Free Hotline, median trash cans and Litter Free Lifestyle pledges.
Seven Sources of Litter - Accessible litter receptacles with prevention signage are at major street corners for pedestrians. Uncovered trucks are addressed through City ordinances which make it unlawful for trucks hauling waste to be uncovered. Construction sites are inspected by our Engineering and Environmental Services Departments and incentives are offered though KGPB’s Green & Clean Builder Program. Code Enforcement hand notices include options for compliance on improperly handled residential waste are provided prior to issuance of citations. A new enforcement position inspects auto salvage areas and commercial waste containers to insure compliance with our litter laws. Businesses are encouraged to use the right size waste container. Our Facebook page informs the public that it is illegal to use another business’s dumpster. We created a prevention-oriented PSA about the penalties for throwing litter out of a car and placed grant-funded trash cans in medians at major intersections that are accessible to drivers. Our litter ordinance includes penalties for littered sites such as loading docks. Participants in our cleanups say that they will never, ever litter again and that they had no idea so much litter ends up in the creeks. Businesses and neighborhoods print articles about our litter prevention programs.
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Solid Waste Management: The city’s Long-Range Solid Waste Management Plan included feedback from citizens who participated on the task force that developed the plan. The city partners with Grand Prairie Disposal for our curbside recycling program. Businesses get involved through our Clean Company Program co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Most Adopt-A-Street segments have been adopted by local businesses and civic groups, some of whom pay Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops to pick up the litter. KGPB promotes source reduction as the highest goal in the hierarchy of solid waste management. Our Clean Company Program and other recognition programs encourage source reduction. For example, a Clean Company member, Smurfit Stone, won a Pollution Prevention (P2) Award for developing a sludge reuse and reduction process that also saved them money.
In addition to curbside recycling, we also have large-venue recycling. Drop off sites throughout the city offer multifamily sites options for recycling and we offer Christmas tree recycling and curbside brush collection for mulching. White goods, brush, metals, batteries, tires and concrete are recycled at our landfill. Paint is recycled through Household Hazardous Waste collections and E-Waste collections occur on Earth Day and on Texas America Recycles Day.
While we promote the “Don’t Bag It” program, it’s not unusual to see Community Gardeners and/or Master Composters raiding residential trash to get bags of grass and leaves for composting. Landscapers bring their grass and leaves to our garden sites instead of taking them to a landfill. Our Solid Waste Division hosts one of the few remaining Master Composter Certification Programs, which includes instruction, the Rodale Composting Book, a compost thermometer and a Shepherd’s bin. Our Junior Master Composter and Vermicomposting programs are aligned to state standards. Measurable results include 453 tons of paper, 9,754 pounds of aluminum cans and more than 2 tons of plastics recycled by our schools. Our residential recycling set out rate is 18.5%. Last year Bush Elementary collected 180 pounds of worm castings from left over cafeteria food and used castings in their outdoor habitat.
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Litter Law and Illegal Dumping Enforcement: A new PSA, featuring a police officer and focusing on litter laws resulted from research and a meeting between KGPB, our police chief and other police and Municipal Court and Code Enforcement staff. Illegal dumping is taken seriously and an environmental court process was established with a prosecutor who received additional training on or illegal dumping laws. One of our code officers completed Peace Officer training to handle illegal dumpers instead of waiting for a police officer. His new title is Senior Environmental Crimes Investigator. Most illegal dumpers caught plead guilty and are required to cleanup their messes. Last year, 20 illegal dumpers were caught. Two cases were Class C and one was a felony dumping case with five people who each received a felony dumping charge. Three sites were cleaned by the property owner. 49 were cleaned by a code contractor and 29 were cleaned by the City’s Streets Department. KGPB volunteers cleaned up 14 sites. We post illegal dumping prevention signs at chronic dumping sites and we have surveillance cameras to use.
Our Graffiti Hurts Hotline initiates a notification process for the Police Department Gang Unit to investigate and the Code Enforcement Division to determine the best course of action for cleanup. Minor graffiti problems are handled by code officers. Medium problems are referred to KGPB for cleanup and major graffiti problems are handled by Building Services a power washer and other removal equipment. We clean graffiti on private property for free if the owner will sign a release form.
High grass, weeds, low hanging branches, dilapidated structures, junked cars and similar issues are identified by our Code Enforcement Department. Residents with these problems are provided with information about our free tool loaning program, which includes lawn mowers, weed eaters and pole saws among other tools. Other solutions offered include free towing for junked vehicles and information about our Housing Department’s Housing Rehabilitation Program. If the resident doesn’t take action, citations are issued with abatement proceedings following due process.
Conclusion: Keep Grand Prairie Beautiful’s programs are basic and foundational. Many of the programs exist in other Keep City Beautiful Programs. What makes ours special, we think, is the consistent and sustainable strength of the programs. Each year, awareness of what we do grows. Each year, more and more volunteers participate, but as equally exciting is how many volunteers return year after year. They know how to book their cleanups, where to go to get their supplies, where to turn in their reports and how to connect with their volunteers. We have an ever-growing network of trained volunteers and volunteers leaders who make our programs work. We are proud that most of the tools you could ever need to improve your home are available for loan for free and we deliver! We are proud that our seniors are being cared for through our Adopt-A-Senior program. We are proud that our residents are learning about and protecting the watersheds where they live. We are proud that our children are leading their families to the environmental “light,” and especially proud that KGPB benefited from 57,730 participant hours contributed by 16,846 volunteers and participants in KGPB events. That’s more than 10% of our population who made a difference in our community. Our KGPB programs and the volunteers who run them truly do make Grand Prairie a better place to live, work and play.
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