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Photos/Angela Reinhardt Nancy LaChance picks up a stretch of road in downtown Jasper near the Keep Pickens Beautiful building. This year alone she has picked up nearly 3,500 gallons of trash off the sides of roads in Pickens County. She says “trashwalking is such a delight.”

Nancy LaChance talks trashwalking

“Trashwalking is my jam”

“Trash” and “joy” aren’t words that are typically associated with one another. But for Nancy LaChance they’re like peas and carrots. Like salt and pepper. Like an Adopt-A-Road volunteer and one of those long trash-grabbing claw things.

            “I just can’t put into words how much pleasure it gives me to pick up trash,” said LaChance, whose happiness emanates from her like light reflecting off an old pie tin when she talks about garbage. “It’s one of the most joyful things ever.”

            LaChance is an Adopt-A-Road volunteer with Keep Pickens Beautiful, but she’s taken her volunteerism to the next level. She spends two to three hours every single day collecting garbage on the side of several roads in Pickens County. She estimates it’s around 20 miles worth.

            The passionate “trashwalker,” as she refers to herself, tries to get in five miles a day, but if the road is especially dirty it takes longer. She even separates what she picks up into recyclable and non-recyclable materials.

            Since 2016 Keep Pickens Beautiful logs show that LaChance has collected over 20,000 gallons of trash and spent nearly 1,100 hours of manpower on the job.

            “I’m 69 this year so my goal is to pick up 6,900 gallons of trash,” she said. “I’m about halfway there right now, and I’m going to make it happen.”

            LaChance sees it as a way to reduce litter, beautify the county, stay active, and also a way to be in nature and experience her community from a different perspective.

            “This county is just beautiful,” she said. “It’s not like  other places. Here I don’t think there’s a road that’s not nice. I love walking and enjoying it, seeing the gorgeous vistas and forests and plants, and the cows and horses and donkeys.”

            She said she’s befriended cows on one road and recalled watching two bugs push a piece of vegetation across the road in another. A kudzu patch in one area reminds her of a giant man.

            LaChance pulled out her trashwalking set up she’s more or less perfected after so many miles. A Camel Bak pack that holds water and is stocked with bug spray, a visor, sweat rag, and bags she clips on the straps – one on the left shoulder and one on the right shoulder to separate trash into recyclable and non-recyclable.

            Her main drag is Big Ridge Road where she collects along all eight miles, and that’s also where her favorite spot in the county is located – as well as her friends the cows. One man on the road occasionally gives her $20 for her do-goody efforts.

Adopt-A-Road volunteer Nancy LaChance collects garbage in 13-gallon bags then picks them up in her car to take to the Pickens County Recycling Center.

Most of the items LaChance collects are what you would expect – food and drink containers. The most common are empty beverage cans and bottles, and oddly enough empty poppy seed containers on one road.

            “I have no idea what people are doing with all those poppy seeds,” she said, laughing.

            Most items go to the recycling center, but she’s found a few she liked enough to keep. One is an old metal pitcher she took home and lacquered, the other is a ceramic chicken.

            You wouldn’t think it, but the KPB volunteer and employee wasn’t always eco-minded or active. In fact for most of her life it was quite the opposite.

            “I was a computer nerd to the core and was not athletic at all,” said LaChance, who helps KPB with some computer work and mans their office on Main Street.

            When she was a child LaChance had to be excused from physical activity for a health issue, and in later life has issues with pinched nerves and sciatica, but she doesn’t let it stop her. It wasn’t until after her husband passed away in 2013 – just months after they moved to Pickens County – that she started walking. After she saw an Adopt-A-Road sign around 2016 the rest is history. 

            “If I can’t trashwalk I’ll be in a grumpy mood,” she said. “There is something about the trees and nature and experiencing that that makes you a better human, and the satisfaction of seeing a clean road.”

            LaChance wants to spread her own joy with others, and multiply the number of trashwalkers in the world.

            “I want to challenge other people to try it and see if they like it,” she said. “It’s the most joyful thing ever. If every human picked up 152 pieces of garbage the world would be clean. I hope everyone gives it a try.”

            Visit Keep Pickens Beautiful online at keeppickensbeautiful.org to learn more about the Adopt-A-Road program.

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