Volunteers Promote Parkouts in Dranesville District

Volunteers Promote Parkouts in Dranesville District

The trash "parkouts" in Great Falls and McLean are long-standing traditions that predate contemporary marketing practices and, certainly, the internet.

But local citizens in both communities are so determined to preserve Fairfax County's ritualistic Saturday morning trash drop-off service that they are employing new technology, as well as old-fashioned, press-the-flesh appeals to try to save the parkouts from oblivion.

As the county reviews its budget for FY 2003, the parkouts have been targeted for an increase from $195 to $280 per household per year. Supporters fear that will be the beginning of the end for the parkouts, possibly pricing them beyond the reach of most citizens.

With the number of users already dropping by about 10 percent a year, an increase in price could reduce the parkouts below viability, said Rosemary Ryan, legislative aide to Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn (R-Dranesville).

She said at least 200 new subscribers are needed to sign up this year to keep the service going.

"From what we hear from the citizens calling in, it's a crucial service to them," Ryan said. "For many people, this seems to be the only option. There are elderly people in Great Falls who say if they had to wheel a [trash] container up and down their driveways, it would be beyond them. It is just as easy to put it in a container and take it to the parkout."

The parkout dates to a time when the county was mostly rural.

Once a week, on Saturday morning, three of the county's garbage trucks are driven to each of two locations, Cooper Middle School in McLean and Great Falls Elementary School in Great Falls.

Residents pay the $195 annual fee for a decal that allows them to bring refuse to the trucks and drop it there, rather than subscribing to a private company that would come to their homes.

Because Great Falls and, to a lesser extent, McLean has low density, many residences are accessed via private roads. Big garbage trucks tend to destroy them, Ryan said.

"For people on long driveways with private roads, the impact [of large garbage trucks operated by private haulers] is devastating. There is no place for the trucks to turn around," she said.

IN McLEAN, TREES COMMITTEE chairman Dick Poole and volunteers Herb Becker and Don Morton have been distributing flyers at the Saturday morning parkouts at Cooper Middle School at the intersection of Balls Hill Road and Georgetown Pike.

Morton said they hope to reach newcomers who don't know about the parkouts.

They need the contributions of newsprint that people drop at the site when they bring their trash, said Poole, chairman of the Trees Committee of the McLean Citizens Association.

Volunteers assist residents in unloading their old newspaper for recycling. The papers are sold, and the proceeds have paid for more than 5,000 plantings of trees and shrubs in the McLean area.

They include trees along Chain Bridge Road, Dolley Madison Boulevard, and Old Dominion Drive.

"Termination of the parkout would be a real blow to the Trees Committee's program of recycling newspapers and magazines," according to the flyer.

"The proceeds from this operation have provided our principal source of steady income to fund our planting and upkeep programs."

BUT NEWCOMERS MIGHT NOT realize their newspapers can be recycled into trees in the local community, Morton said.

And Fairfax County doesn't push the parkout program, which has been eliminated everywhere else in the county. The programs at Cooper and Great Falls Schools are the last two.

"When people move into the county there is no brochure that goes to them," said Ryan.

"Staff has told us they do not market this in any way. If we can increase awareness maybe we can get those other 200 people" needed to firm up parkout use, she said.

Ryan said information about the parkouts will be added to web sites for the McLean Citizens Association and the Dranesville Supervisor, as well as welcome packets from the McLean Chamber of Commerce.

"Mr. Mendelsohn will make every effort to save it," Ryan said. "He hasn't met yet with [Board of Supervisors Budget Chair Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock).

"He will make every effort to get the rate of increase reduced to something we can live with," Ryan said.

Eleanor Anderson, president of the Great Falls Citizens Association, said that group is also working to save the parkouts. Information on obtaining permits will be added to the GFCA’s website, she said.

MENDELSOHN HAS ASKED if the increase in the yearly fee can be held to $225, rather than the $280 proposed in the county's budget.

"We're hoping that the deficit encumbered by the $225 is one the county can live with," said Ryan. "Our commitment to the county is that if this program is retained in Dranesville District, it will be self-supporting.

"If we could get 200 more people we could [continue] it at the existing rate $195/year. It is proposed to go to $280. Our goal is to bring it down to $225, but we would take it lower if we could get it."

At $225, it would take at least 820 subscribers to maintain the program. Presently, it has about 875. The county employees who operate the trucks get overtime pay for working on Saturday mornings.

"It's our trucks. This is the last place in the county where this service is available on Saturday. They are entitled to overtime," Ryan said. The workers are assigned to other routes during the week, she said.

To apply for a permit to use the parkout, call the county's Division of Solid Waste Collection and Recycling, 703-803-3322 and press 0 upon receiving a voice mail response. Or, call the Dranesville Supervisor's office at 703-356-0551 to have a permit application faxed or mailed.