“I've found a lot of beer cans, cigarette wrappers, and empty ketchup packets,” the 19-year-old University of Toledo pharmacy student said, holding up a half-full trash bag. “They smell.”
The effort was for a good cause.
Ms. Davis was among 200 UT students who turned out for the Big Event, a litter-collection campaign that focused on three areas abutting the university campus: Dorr Street between Parkside Boulevard and Byrne Road, Bancroft Hills, and Ottawa Park along its paved pathways and Bancroft Street border.
The three areas were selected for a simple reason, according to Russ Acino, the 22-year-old UT student who was the cleanup campaign's main coordinator. “We wanted heavily populated areas where a lot of students live.”
Town-gown relations in these and other neighborhoods have been strained of late, with neighborhood residents complaining that students in rental properties disturb the peace, leave trash, and clog streets with parked cars.
The city has pressured embattled landlords, making them prove they are in compliance with the zoning code, which prohibits more than three unrelated people from living together in a single-family home.
But Mr. Acino, who is the student government chief of staff, said planning for the Big Event began last fall, well before the current tensions surfaced.
He said he was contacted in October by a representative of Texas A&M University, College Station, which does community-service projects on a large scale. “They sent me an informational packet, telling me step-by-step how to set the whole thing up,” Mr. Acino explained.
“This is an important project for us,” Mr. Acino continued. “Student government has been stressing Rocket pride on campus. We've been able to boost morale. Now we want to go outside the university and interact with the community.”
The cleanup effort attracted plenty of landlords, who wore T-shirts bearing the name of their organization, Property Owners for Improved Neighborhoods Today, or POINT.
Rick Ross, who owns properties in Bancroft Hills and nearby Secor Gardens, donated the truck used to haul away the collected trash. Another landlord, Trudy Vicary, said she has been charged with 10 housing violations by the city. “I'm not guilty. I care about my properties and the neighborhoods they're in. I'm here to support the community,” she said.
Councilwoman Wilma Brown, who lives in Secor Gardens and has taken up the cause of the neighborhood residents, said the litter pick-up was appreciated but “doesn't attack the real problem, which is the number of people living in rented, single-family homes. I want the students to know I appreciate what they're doing, and I hope they continue to do it.”