We should take pride in our surroundings

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Whenever I know someone is coming to my house, I jump into action to make it look presentable, ensuring there are no dishes in the sink, the floor is swept, and none of my husband’s stray socks are laying around. Where we live is an extension of who we are, so it’s only natural to take pride in our surroundings.

Why then, does this not always extend to the neighborhoods we live in? Beautification matters, not only from an economic development standpoint of drawing people and businesses to our community. It influences real estate values and the perception of where we live. A well-kept neighborhood makes us feel safer when going on walks for fresh air or letting our children play outside. A clean ditch versus one cluttered with litter can even make the difference between functional drainage and flooded streets during the severe weather events that strike with little warning in Southeast Louisiana.

Last month, I spoke to Garyville resident Anna Maguire about her concerns regarding blighted property and maintenance issues in her neighborhood.

As she walks through the neighborhood streets, she sees homes that appear abandoned, partially hidden by overgrown grass. Even in instances where the parish has posted notices, Maguire said that, without the means for permanent change, homeowners are not consistently held accountable for violations and will let property fall into disarray time and time again. Hurricane Ida only worsened the situation more than a year ago, as many neighbors have left and haven’t returned.

She sees uncut ditches and trash piled in plain sight behind houses. Where Highway 54 meets Museum Street, she sees the ends of the railroad’s boards rise up whenever a car drives over them and wonders what needs to be done to eliminate the safety hazard.

She’s had some success in advocating for her community, from fixing a trail to having trash cleaned up at a nearby substation. But in many ways, she feels the basic care and maintenance she’s fighting for is out of her hands.

“I’ve lived here for 33 years. For the past seven years I’ve been fighting. There are some things I’ve gotten accomplished, but why do you have to fight so hard to get it done?” she asked. “I care about where I live. I want it to be clean. I want it to look decent so when anybody comes running through here, they can say we’ve got a pretty nice place. We can’t do that with all of this stuff looming and nobody does anything,”

Maguire feels her voice has not been heard, and I’m sure she feels that her voice has not been heard by me. I hoped I could use the newspaper as a channel to find a solution, but I have not been successful at addressing these concerns. However, think it’s important to acknowledge there is a perception that Garyville and other small communities end up on the backburner.

Even with public works operating through the parish regularly and community-wide team up to clean up events occurring twice a year, more can be done so all residents can feel a sense of pride in their surroundings.

While the local government is responsible for putting standards in place and enforcing ordinances, the responsibility of maintaining our neighborhoods should also lie with each individual resident, especially for things that cannot be legislated.

A lot of it comes down to the pride we have in our own homes and surroundings, and that’s not something that should have to be taught.

 

Brooke R. Cantrelle is news editor for L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at brooke.robichaux@lobservateur.com.