When residents go outside to enjoy their community, they want it to look its best. In a city the size of Maricopa, that takes a big group effort. The Keep Maricopa Beautiful program helps everyone get involved in cleaning up their community.

Nathan Ullyot, director of the city’s Community Services Department, said this idea came from the city wanting to make Maricopa home for people, a place to raise kids, a place to be proud of.

Trash can build up around Maricopa from people not taking the time to throw it away and the winds then blow it across the city.

He said it shouldn’t just be the city’s job to take care of the trash. It should also be on an individual level. He hopes this program will help unify the city.

There’s just a few people who are involved in running the program. David McLeish, operations specialist, and Josh Bowman, assistant to the city manager, are a couple people who really helped bring this program to life.

The Keep Maricopa Beautiful program hosted its first cleanup on July 31. The community was enthusiastically supportive with over 100 people cleaning up 10-15 areas.

Some of the Heritage District areas and the old Rotary Park were cleaned. They worked for an hour to an hour and a half cleaning up Maricopa in areas on the map or places they knew needed to be cleaned where they lived.

On social media, many residents expressed wanting to be involved with future cleanups.

This program will have a QR code that can be sent around the community via email, social media and flyers. It will show people a map of the city with plotted points for litter cleanup. People don’t need to meet, just pick a point in the city and clean it up.

A blue point represents an area needing cleanup and a green point represents an already-cleaned area. People can find specific information for the cleanup at each plotted point on the map. Citizens can clean up these points at any time.

McLeish will update the map once people send in photos of the cleaned area. People can also send in photos of areas that they feel need to be plotted on the map.

Ullyot discussed future cleanups around the city. They plan to host “Fifth Saturday” cleanups, meaning this department will go out and clean up around the Heritage area every month with a fifth Saturday.

The department will provide window clings to businesses that pledge to keep Maricopa beautiful with a list of participating businesses a part of this initiative.

Even if a store is leasing with support from common area services that empty trash and pick up the parking lots, the city hopes the store owners will make an effort to keep their storefronts and parking areas clean and free of debris.

Code enforcement officers help the community stay up to standards, so it’s a healthy place to live.

Now, they will also keep an “eye out” for those businesses doing a good job keeping their places of trash, so they can be highlighted as part of the program through city media outlets. These business owners may receive a visit from one of the code enforcement staff members, thanking them for their efforts and personally inviting them to be part of the program.

The Community Services Department encourages citizens to politely help businesses be aware of keeping their storefronts clean by letting management know.

Ullyot said a future development for this program is randomly “catching” residents being good Samaritans in the community and handing out gift cards through Random Acts of Kindness donated from local businesses.

“People do good stuff all the time and it goes unnoticed,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’ll always catch everything. Just highlight people doing the right thing. If every person does that, it means that someone else doesn’t have to.”

They are also considering painting trash receptacles, repurposing art and possibly partnering with the homeowners associations. Another possibility is using a #keepmaricopabeautiful tag where residents can highlight how they personally are keeping Maricopa beautiful, which would be shared on the city’s media outlets.

With these vision projects, Ullyot said the thought is to incorporate public art so items like trash receptacles and electrical boxes become a point of pride and beauty instead of something to hide.

Ullyot hopes in the future that Keep Maricopa Beautiful will become a mindset.

The public can also get involved by reporting illegal dumping. The department needs the public’s help identifying hot spots and when they think something is happening.

There’s a transfer station open on Saturdays where people can go and dump their trash off legally.

“A $15 fee at our transfer station is a lot better than a $200 or $400 fee if you dump in the wrong place, and at a certain point it becomes a criminal offense,” Ullyot said.

He appreciates people reporting illegal dumping because even if the city has to pick up, say, an abandoned couch on the side of the road, it can be picked up quickly.

It shows the city is paying attention to this issue, and that people care how the city looks. It discourages people from seeing it as a dumping site. A clean community helps to deter crime.

Bowman said in an email there are a few ways citizens can help stop illegal dumping. First, don’t do it. There are very few if any residents doing it, but the city needs help stopping those who do.

If citizens see anyone illegally dumping trash, they can call the police non-emergency line. If citizens can get a license plate number and photos, it would help track the dumper down.

If citizens don’t see the dumping happen, but want to report where it happened, it can be reported at the Citizen Request Portal. Drop the pin on the location, then select “Garbage or Debris.”

“I think the biggest thing is don’t get discouraged and know that you can make a difference and that making a difference is actually doing it,” Ullyot said. “The little differences people can make is a difference. Even if you’re just doing the right thing for yourself, that makes a difference.”

More information about this project and the map can be found at www.keepmaricopabeautiful.com.

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Kimlye Stager covers Maricopa and the surrounding area for PinalCentral, including city, education, business, crime and more. She can be reached at kstager@pinalcentral.com.

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