Sometimes, doing something is all it takes to make a difference, and East Wheeling resident Stephanie Wright is a prime example.
Last fall Stephanie and a large group of other volunteers spent a couple of days digging at the tree beds that line 14th Street. They removed the collected litter, weeded, and they added top soil and flower bulbs. With the completion of each bed, they moved on to the next until finally the last of 41 of them was complete.
This spring, the blooms of their labor have been revealed. Not only do the flowering pear trees make 14th Street one of the most attractive in the Friendly City, but those beds have been transformed into flower beds, too. Tulips of several colors have emerged, and residents now are caring for the attractive additions because something so simple has increased the pride in the neighborhood.
No one asked Stephanie and her friends to make this effort. They did it on their own because they envisioned the potential. Stephanie and Brian Wilson, both graduates of Belmont College’s Restoration/Preservation program, are currently saving a long-vacant house near the intersection of 14th and Jacob streets. Both have become fully engaged in the community since purchasing the structure two years ago, and today they are members of the Young Preservationists and are involved with many other groups.
And that’s because they get it just as many members of the Wheeling Island Community Association do. Those folks, in fact, will gather this Saturday at 9 a.m. at the marina to orchestrate an Island-wide cleanup day. They will strap on plastic gloves and walk the streets of both the north and south ends collecting whatever litter they find. Once one bag is full, it will be placed at a designated location for pickup, and then they will work to fill another.
Unfortunately, it will not be very difficult for them to discover litter on Wheeling Island. Since the snow has melted, a disgusting amount of trash been revealed in all sections of Wheeling, and we’re talking about much more than thousands of cigarette butts along Interstate 70 exit ramps. Discarded fast-food bags, plastic bottles, tube televisions, pop cans, diapers, milk cartons, and used toys – you name it, and these residents are likely collecting it, bagging it, and sending it where the trash belongs.
“It’s something we do every year in conjunction with Earth Day,” explained Community Association member Lynne Walton. “There’s always so much to clean up that we need as many people as possible. Some years we’ve had people who do not live on Wheeling Island come and help, too.
“It always amazes me how much people litter,” she said. “And it’s much more than what we find on near the banks of the river. Much more. It’s along the streets, at our parks, in the alleys. And some of what people throw away, and where they discard it, surprises me, too. But we do it because we want Wheeling Island to appear as good as it can.”
For these kinds of efforts to continue, though, the volunteers need to be confident their time will be valued by those who benefit, and by those who govern our municipality. That is why our city leaders must do something to protect the improvements.
Recently the Tunnel Green recreational complex has been in the news thanks to the impending development of the Wheeling Dog Park, but for many years a plethora of people have worked to improve the quality of the facility whether it has involved working on the ball field, the shelter, or the roller hockey areas.
With the arrival of warmer temperatures over the past few weeks the work has resumed in preparation for the start of the city’s Little League seasons. Unfortunately, some of the work will now need to be repeated as vandals have damaged the concessions shed that is located along the fencing in left field. One may believe security isn’t a problem at this location because the heavily traveled W.Va. Route 2 extends right past this complex, but these criminals attacked the shed hidden from the view of motorists.
This time, the crooks discovered an empty shed when they gained access, but that may not be the case next time. The structure is used for the game-time goodies, but it also houses some of the equipment needed for the on-field action and people involved with the organization stage fundraisers all year long to provide for the area’s children.
Wheeling police officers often cruise the single-lane road that leads in and out of the facility, but with the dog park expected by the end of summer, Chief Shawn Schwertfeger may wish to increase the patrols so the efforts of these volunteers are not in vain. The same goes for all of the fields used in Wheeling, from the J.B. Chambers I-470 complex to Patterson, Wheeling Island, and the rest. If we as a community hope for our neighbors to do something positive for the city’s children as the people at Tunnel Green have attempted to do, we also must hope for their efforts to be protected from those who wish to take advantage.
Here’s the good news.
“We listen very closely to the complaints and the patrol requests that we receive from the residents of Wheeling,” the chief explained. “I can tell you that the Tunnel Green complex was not on the request list, but it sure is now.
“As I have said since I returned home to accept this position, this department wants to partner with the people of Wheeling as often as we can and as often as we have to,” Schwertfeger continued. “If there is something our residents think we should know about, it’s my hope that they will pick up the telephone and tell us about it.”
“Do Something” is not simply just a slogan for this online publication. It is also a message we at Weelunk wish to send to a community finally battling back against decades of alleged demise. Schwertfeger gets it, and so do Wright, Wilson, Walton and many, many others.
But do you?
Photos by Steve Novotney