The comment I heard yesterday was a truthful, honest assessment. Moving to Hazlehurst was a culture shock.
Limited restaurant choices. Nothing to do. Lack of concern among citizens for how our community looked, what kind of impression our community makes on visitors, on potential residents, on potential businesses, industries and employers.
Almost 48 years ago, I shared that feeling of culture shock when I made my first foray into a county I now call home and I am now so proud to live in.
But, still, after almost five decades, there is much lacking. Much to be proud of, much to love, much to cherish, but still falling short of what we could be and should be.
When I first moved here, many, many years ago, I drove around the county familiarizing myself with the environs, riding the dirt roads, exploring, getting a sense of what my new-found home was about.
Still, today, I recall vividly one of my first impressions. I was disconcertedly stunned by the roadside trash, the dumping grounds along the side of dirt roads, the lack of pride in community, pride of ownership …. lack of concern for the impressions being made on newcomers like me.
Over the years, I, too, have become somewhat oblivious — but not completely oblivious — to the negative impression our community gives to our visitors.
In recent years, I’ve become much more attuned to our aesthetic failures. Some years back, after attending a downtown development authority seminar in Valdosta, I came home with a renewed observancy. I looked at the trash strewn, weed infested alley behind the Ledger office and decided to do something about it. I cleaned up the alley, planted grass, bought a push lawnmower to keep the grass neat …. and for a while, my alley neighbors began taking pride in our shared area.
Then, a business moved in that had little concern for my mission. Trash and litter piled up. I soon tired of cleaning up behind them and gave up.
The weeds, horrible weeds on the streets and sidewalks on Latimer Street in front of my office also caught my attention. I bought weed spray, a sprayer and regularly fought the spread of unsightly weeds. But I soon felt so alone in my quest and gave up again.
And serenity park, across from the Post Office, had suffered years of neglect until Rory and Joel Chaney began their quest to improve our downtown. I chipped in. Spent hours trying to restore the park but, alas, the city did not care and, again, I gave up. Those of us who care, need help. Please.