If you drive along every street or alley in Visalia east of Mooney Blvd from as far north as Ferguson to as far south as Walnut, you will not find any debris, trash, graffiti or abandoned items. And, if you do, it may be gone the very next day!
It is not because of the city’s trash pickup though impressive and appreciated. It is all because of one man, Bill Huott. He is to be honored on Monday, February 6th at Visalia City Council’s 7:00 pm meeting as an Environmental Hero.
Visalia Environmental Alliance recognizes community members for their long-time daily actions that protect the environment. Bill Huott is one amazing example. He is a notable example of how one small positive action or choice can have a ripple effect and grow into something larger.
From 1987 when he purchased his home on Willis in North Visalia until 1999, he was burdened by the illegal trash dumping in the alleys, and areas around his home.
Finally, he said, “Enough is enough.” He set out to haul away debris from every alley and yard in his neighborhood. Sometimes knocking on doors to request permission. Perplexed by the graffiti, he began painting over and removing graffiti and stickers.
In time his coverage expanded to other sections of North Visalia and eastward, from Ferguson to Main, and Mooney to Cain. As one area stayed cleaner, he continued to locations south of Hwy.198 as far as Walnut Avenue. With hatchet and sledgehammer he breaks up discarded sofas, beds, and even fallen branches.
At first, he daily walked routes to survey clean-up areas. Now that his route has grown, he drives his truck, accompanied by his dog Ursula, starting early in the morning. No alley, vacant lot, trash bin at apartment complexes, or roadside is overlooked. Over the twenty-two years of daily surveying and recording clean-up sites in a journal, these stacked papers measure 2 feet high.
He is greeted by residents throughout the areas he serves. Neighbors and community members began helping and keeping their own areas clean. Friends from widespread areas and from neighborhoods surrounding Washington Elementary, Houston Elementary, and Highland Elementary Schools began advising him of areas needing cleanup.
On “Dump on Us” days volunteers with their trucks and muscle assist him in designated areas located on maps detailing the items to pick up and sites for clean-up. One year, he coordinated a cleanup program with Rescue Mission and Recovery volunteers to clean the streets. Business organizations have sponsored him with trailers! Volunteers assist with cleanups using maps he creates.
Now residents welcome his arrival in their neighborhoods. Bill stated, “Regular routes are keeping clean, the alleys and streets are cleaner, feel safer, and the vibe is better.” And his favorite expression, “Clean is less mean.”
Other Environmental Heroes honored by the Alliance include Nancy Hawkins, a Master Gardener dedicating her skills to educate and establish drought tolerant landscapes, Wilson Renier Family adopting a lifestyle committed to “no waste left behind”, and Joseph Castellanos Family volunteering and participating at Sequoia Riverlands Trust, Forestry Challenge and Harvesting Hope, and native crafting with local indigenous peoples.
To connect with Bill Huott or to recommend someone in the community that exemplifies an Environmental Hero, please email Visalia Environmental Alliance at [email protected].