MANCHESTER, NH – More than 50 volunteers rolled up their sleeves Wednesday to address trash along the railroad tracks that run through the center of the city. Although community clean-ups happen frequently, what made this one unique is the collaboration between the city and Pan Am Railway, which owns the property along the tracks.
After more than a year of frustration on the part of those who live and work along the tracks, the outcome was positive, said June Trisciani, whose business is located in the millyard. She has been a vocal advocate for addressing the chronic problem of trash.
And while there is still more to do, she was heartened by the turn out.
A year ago Trisciani tried to make an issue of the fact that the private property was an eyesore, and seemed to be nobody’s priority. The city was unable to mount a clean-up effort because it’s private property. Railroad spokesperson Cathy Scaranno said that safety is Pan Am’s top priority, and so coordinating with cities is the only way to get the work done.
“A lot of the trash along the tracks is related to homeless people, and we see this all along the tracks, not just in Manchester. Unfortunately, this is where people are living, so as we work to figure out how to address this, we need to work with cities and make sure there is personnel available, in case we come across someone who is in need of services,” Scaranno said.
To that end, Railway Police Officer R.J. Murphy helped plan the clean-up, and worked closely with the city’s Public Works Department and city police.
Scaranno said the Manchester clean-up could provide blueprint for working with other cities and towns, like Lowell and Lawrence in Massachusetts, where trash related to homelessness is also prevalent.
“Manchester isn’t alone in this issue. Officer Murphy is hoping with this effort in Manchester, he can use this model in other cities,” Scaranno said.
Murphy, who has served with the railroad police for nine years, met with volunteers at about 8 a.m. along the tracks behind Firestone Tires and went over safety issues before the volunteers splintering off into crews.
“I thought it went really well. There was a lot of community support and we got a lot accomplished. We had a bunch of people coming throughout the day, for a total of about 50 volunteers,” Murphy said. “It was a really good day, and everyone had a positive attitude coming together for the community.”
Public Works Director Kevin Sheppard applauded those who volunteered their time, and said the goal is to continue the positive working relationship with Pan Am to keep the railroad tracks clean. Providing city equipment to haul the trash away and recycle whatever could be recycled helped solve some of the problem in mounting this effort with Pan Am, which doesn’t have an effective way to remove or dispose of trash without relying on the city. Dedicated some city resources to the clean-up was key.
“We work with private property owners all the time,” Sheppard said. “Finding a way to maintain a positive relationship is part of it.”
The next phase will be having Pan Am work with the city to return and trim the brush along the tracks in a few weeks.
Chris Connolly, a maintenance technician for Brady Sullivan, said his crew encountered everything from garden-variety trash to needles, bedding – and even a few dead animals (a skunk and a squirrel wrapped up in bags.)
“We all come here to work and you can see it’s disgusting,” Connolly said. “Those who pay to live here shouldn’t have to see that.”
Glenn Montross, a resident of Mill West, also joined the effort.
“When the trash is left there it just brings more problems. You have to get involved. That’s what it’s all about. We don’t want to sit here and complain about it,” Montross said. “Last year Pan Am said we were trespassing if we went over there to try and clean up, so it’s progress. It’s great that the city and Pan Am are finally working together.”
Portland Pie Company donated pizzas, delivered around 1 p.m. to reward those who spent the morning in the trenches.
Businesses and groups who assisted in the clean-up effort, included:
- Neighbor Works Southern NH
- All Hands In
- Harmony Homes
- Hope Tabernacle
- Main Street Mission
- Brady Sullivan Properties
- Boxes of Love for the homeless
- Portland Pie Co
- Manchester Police Department
- Manchester Department of Public Works