Piles of trash removed from vacant Third Ward lots
Piles of rubbish – everything from car bumpers, broken glass and fast food packaging – were cleared from several vacant lots in Third Ward on Sunday in an effort to clean up the neighborhood.
Dozens of volunteers, led by Baytown-raised Navy veteran Trish West, began to beat the heat at 7 a.m., first combing through vacant lot next to a 54 bus stop on McGowan Street near Scott Street – less than a mile from the University of Houston campus. There was once a food market on the property, which has since been destroyed.
The group of nearly 40 people then moved to a stretch of vegetated land along Dennis Street, where housewares have been dumped for more than a decade.
Over the next three hours, volunteers packed a 40 cubic meter dumpster full of trash – to overcome obstacles that included a horde of ants.
“I have ants in my pants,” said Chris Irving, who danced the bugs off his legs after being doused with water.
The garbage, he said, attracts insect infestation. He pointed to a row of bushes on Bremond Street where he found the nest.
“We need a pesticide over here,” continued Irving. “Years of dumping piles of trash over here is what accumulates: ants, chiggers, bed bugs, whatever.”
And under the many layers of rubbish, West found a floor full of rats and cockroaches.
“That’s what they need, all of the junk that’s piling up there. You’re safe, ”she said.
During the first lesson, Eric Douglas, who lives across from Yates High School, said he picked up at least three bags of trash near the first lot.
“This is the historic Third Ward Community,” said Douglas. “I don’t think you should honor something by throwing it away.”
Who owns the destroyed properties is a mystery to West. About three weeks ago, the Department of Neighborhoods published a property violation at 3448 Dennis Street, where the owner was instructed to remove the weeds and clear the trash within a week. This had not yet happened when volunteers arrived to shovel rubbish into a trash can and remove debris from the overgrown grass. Beneath the tangled vegetation was a 55-inch TV with a broken screen.
“People just dump and we drive past every day and that’s the norm,” West said. “We don’t want that to be the norm. That’s not fair.”
West decided shortly after leaving the Navy in 2005 that she wanted to do cleanup work on the community. It took a pandemic to achieve this.
“It really made me do what I really wanted to do forever,” she said. “We’re here, we’re up to something, but we can still come together and make things work for each other.”
The worst trash, she said, was around the corner from Dennis Street on Canfield Street, where another violation notification issued by the city was found. Her cleaning crew picked up dirty diapers, mattresses, a fallen fence, and an old chest of drawers. She believes that behind most of the garbage, the culprits come to the neighborhood to dump it alone.
West said the city has provided gloves, wheelbarrows, weed hunters and garbage bags in addition to the dumpster for their second clean over the past few weeks. A private company, L&R Junk Removal, brought in more trucks and helping hands.
At the end of their day, some sidewalks were exposed while cleaning up.
She plans to conduct a third cleanse at 7:00 a.m. on September 12 at the historic Evergreen Negro Cementery in the fifth ward along Carroll Oliver Way.