Litter, unfortunately, is a problem virtually everywhere in South Jersey. But the beer bottles, soda and coffee cups, food wrappers, plastic bags and all the other trash that people leave in their wake is particularly offensive when it sullies some of the region's most beautiful areas - the pikes and causeways cutting through the salt marshes to the barrier islands.
Most disturbing of all: Often the trash is left behind by the fishermen and crabbers drawn to these areas by their natural beauty and bounty in the first place. Go figure. But that's Joisey.
Recently, Derrick Logan, of Galloway Township, called attention to a makeshift dump at a popular fishing spot on Route 30 in Absecon, just outside of Atlantic City. He posted photos of the trash on Instagram and Facebook, and that led to two positive developments.
First, it prompted Marlon Hargis - who in 2010 formed a group, "Your Choice, the People's Choice," focused specifically on cleaning up Route 30 - to go out and clean up the site Logan photographed.
And it prompted a debate among government officials over just who should be in charge of cleaning up the marshes on the way into Atlantic City.
We can't praise Hargis and Logan enough. If more people had attitudes like theirs, the region wouldn't have this litter problem. Thank you, gentlemen. But now the question is what to do about the overall problem.
Absecon Mayor John Armstrong says the area Logan found is the responsibility of the state Department of Transportation. The DOT countered that it is responsible only for the area eight feet from the roadway.
Rick Dovey, the head of the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, has - admirably - stepped up. The ACUA already cleans up a one-mile stretch of Route 30 and bills the DOT for the work. And Dovey said the ACUA is willing to put trash and recycling cans at popular crabbing and fishing spots along Route 30 and Route 40 and empty them regularly. That would be great. As Dovey said, this needs to be someone's ongoing responsibility.
Dovey, Armstrong and Hargis also want the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to be involved in cleaning up these gateways to Atlantic City. CRDA officials note that state law prohibits them from spending money outside of Atlantic City - but these roads into the resort are where first impressions of Atlantic City are made. Surely, something can be worked out.
Why residents and visitors sully our beautiful marshes with litter is the hard - and unanswerable - question. But picking up that litter on a regular basis shouldn't be difficult at all.