SMOKEY POINT — Volunteers are getting ready to clean up three spots around Smokey Point in hopes that a cleaner business area may draw shoppers and deter panhandlers and shoplifters.
The cleanup put together by local businesses is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Volunteers should check in at 9:30 a.m. in the Safeway parking lot. Work supplies such as gloves and garbage bags are provided, as is lunch.
The event will focus on three areas: the Safeway parking lot, around the neighboring 7-Eleven and in a nearby overgrown, wooded area known to have problems with homeless camps and drug crimes.
Business owners and customers have safety concerns related to messy areas in Smokey Point and the illegal activity that seems to go with them, said cleanup coordinator Jennifer Smith, with the Arlington-Marysville Retail Theft Group. For example, there’s a daycare near the wooded area and the owner worries about kids seeing things they shouldn’t.
“It becomes a real problem when it grows up too high, especially for the daycare, because it brings in the transient population,” Smith said. “I’ve been out there and I’ve seen the activity that goes on and from the child’s-eye view you can see the bad activity there.”
The area behind the 7-Eleven at some point turned into a dump for trash bags and other refuse, much to the manager’s dismay, Smith said. Small businesses often don’t have the resources to regularly clean persistent problem areas, which is why volunteers can make a big difference.
At all three locations, crews plan to cut back brush, clean up trash, spread new beauty bark and scrub and paint as needed.
“If we get a bunch more people, we could do more areas like other parking lots or a park,” Smith said.
Event organizers are hoping for 200 volunteers but would be thrilled to have more. People can email Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information or register a group of volunteers.
People who live, work or shop in Smokey Point are fed up with the mess and with transients who ask for money, Smith said. It’s getting better as local businesses and police turn their attention to problem areas, but this cleanup day is a chance to attack the spots they haven’t been able to keep up with. It’s also a way to remind people that they can help solve the problems that worry them, Smith said.
“I’ve done loss prevention in the area and just saw the growing need and the growing concerns,” she said. “I’ve escorted elderly citizens from the store to their car because they didn’t want to walk alone. There was a period of time when you couldn’t get out of your car without someone coming up and asking you for money.”
The cleanup event ties in to a citywide campaign encouraging people to give others “a hand up, not a hand out,” Smith said. Officials want people to donate to local nonprofits, such as the Arlington Community Resource Center, rather than handing money directly to someone who asks for it on the street or in a parking lot.
The cleanup could become an annual event.
“I see it happening more than once,” Smith said. “People are already talking about wanting to do one in the north end. We’d love to get the community out there and work side by side with them.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.