ABSECON - An illegal dumpsite on Route 30 has been cleaned up.
Not by the state Department of Transportation, which is responsible for the area, but rather a city man who has a penchant for picking up trash.
Last week, when Marlon Hargis learned of a trash-filled area on Route 30 at a popular fishing spot, he went out and cleaned up the piles of debris in the area.
Department of Transportation spokesman Stephen Schapiro had said last Tuesday that crews would be sent to the area to investigate the debris, but Hargis and his group of volunteers beat them to it.
Hargis' group, dubbed "Your Choice, the People's Choice," cleans up areas such as this along local roadways.
He founded the nonprofit organization in 2010 with his friend Alton Thompson when the men wanted to change the conditions along the stretch of Route 30 around the Atlantic City area.
Now, three years and a lot of trash later, the group needs some help.
After meeting with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Hargis said he is hopeful he will receive some help from the agency to keep areas he and his group work in Atlantic City clean of trash and debris.
"We know it's an issue in the area, and that's why our group went to the CRDA for help. We have to deal with our trash. It's just as important as breathing air and drinking water," Hargis said.
He said he will continue his work outside the city limits while calling on other agencies to get involved.
Hargis said he is hopeful that CRDA will provide them with garbage cans to place in fishing and crabbing areas within the city limits.
The Route 30 and 40 corridors that lead directly into the resort also need attention, but mainland municipalities need to help, Hargis said.
CRDA Deputy Director Susan Thompson said the agency is limited in how much assistance it can provide for cleanup outside Atlantic City. Legislation passed in 2010 to revitalize Atlantic City also restricted the use of CRDA funds to projects within Atlantic City.
Thompson said Hargis has introduced himself to the CRDA and explained his group's purpose and efforts.
The CRDA applauds Hargis' home-grown initiative to work to clean up areas that don't get a high level of attention, and there could be more areas within the resort that could benefit from such cleanups, Thompson said.
"We can assist him in Atlantic City, but if it's beyond the city limits, then we can't help," she said.
There are extra trash receptacles sitting in the city's Public Works parking lot that Hargis could use for work within the resort, but CRDA cannot place them outside the city, Thompson said.
"What we're trying to do is connect him to the other agencies and services that would be able to assist him in those areas. It's about building partnerships and getting stakeholders involved who care about how this area looks," she said.
Atlantic County Utilities Authority President Rick Dovey said his agency is willing to join with others such as the CRDA, the South Jersey Transportation Authority or private groups such as Hargis'.
Certainly one reason for CRDA to get involved is that Route 30 in Absecon is one of the gateways to Atlantic City, Dovey said.
"It has to be an ongoing responsibility. It's not a one and done and get some good PR - that's not an option. Beyond the bridge in Venice Park no one cares. It's a problem, and it's not being solved, and it needs to be taken care of," Dovey said.
The ACUA received a formal designation last year from the DOT to adopt one mile of Route 30 between Absecon and Atlantic City. One large cleanup has been conducted in that area.
Garbage has been picked up in this area by ACUA crews; the utility then bills the DOT for the pickup, he said.
The ACUA is willing to supply trash and recycling cans at crabbing and fishing spots along Route 30 and 40 where garbage dumping has been a problem, Dovey said.
"We will mark the containers and service them on a regular basis. Our crews will work it into their schedules to service the receptacles," he said.
Absecon Mayor John Armstrong said he is happy that Hargis cleaned up the area, but said he shouldn't have had to because the state shirked its responsibility.
"If the state wants to revive and revitalize business in Atlantic City and the region, lifting the stringent restrictions on CRDA funding going outside the city needs to happen," he said.
When the state mandated that all CRDA funding stay in Atlantic City, legislators pledged to give the resort five years to do work in the city before they entertained expanding casino gaming to other parts of the state.
Armstrong said the resort, however, is benefiting from the influx of people accessing those casinos via the White Horse Pike. The stretch of the White Horse Pike near Atlantic City desperately needs attention and development, he said.
"It makes no sense to have stretches of highway, just a few miles outside of Atlantic City and not be served and assisted by state agencies like CRDA," he said.
Contact Donna Weaver:
@DonnaKWeaver on Twitter