Anti-litter crusader wins prestigious statewide award

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Fresh off Tweetsie cleanup, Ed Jordan planning attack on roadside dump

ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – Ed Jordan was complaining to his wife again shortly after the couple moved to Carter County about six years ago when she turned and offered her thoughts.

“I kept griping about the trash on the road and my wife looked at me one day in the car and told me, ‘well do something about it,'” said Jordan, who leads Keep Carter County Beautiful. “Well I did, so here we are.”

Ed Jordan

Jordan spoke those words at the quarry pond along the Tweetsie Trail, three days after a KCCB-involved cleanup there and four days after receiving the “Love Where You Live” award from Keep Tennessee Beautiful.

In a little over a month, KCCB and any partners they can drum up will be far up Ripshin Mountain Road, tackling a roadside dump on a steep bank above beautiful Roaring Creek.

“I just can’t understand why people would want to destroy such beauty by throwing mattresses and tires and vacuum cleaners and an array of things down into a ravine,” Jordan said Tuesday.

Litter has no place in Jordan’s Carter County, and he’s collected a growing cadre of fellow travelers over the past half-decade. They include children, families, regular folks and plenty of local elected leaders.

Two county commissioners and an Elizabethton City Commissioner count themselves among KCCB’s board members. As far as Jordan’s concerned, the more the merrier.

“I’m very proud of our community and our community leaders both city and county and all the wonderful hard working volunteers that show up for events,” Jordan said.

Volunteers work a previous cleanup.

Keep Tennessee Beautiful’s (KTB) Missy Marshall said Jordan’s persuasiveness, sprinkled with a heavy dose of relentlessness, make him successful in his mission. She said he was selected for the annual award over a pretty competitive field.

“You just don’t tell Ed no,” she said. “He’s persistent, he’s relentless, he’s passionate and he’s just a true leader. I think Carter County is better today because of his contributions.”

Jordan started a group called Carter County Proud in 2016. Around that time he was also communicating regularly — very regularly — with KTB, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and others in an effort to increase the volunteer base for a highway they’d adopted.

“He was relentless,” Marshall said. “If you did not get a response in a timely manner you got another email. He went as high as emailing the governor at the time.”

Ed Jordan, second from left, receives this year’s statewide Love Where You Live award from Keep Tennessee Beautiful.

It worked. Jordan helped Carter County Proud transition to a Keep America Beautiful affiliate and kept living out KAB’s mission, Marshall said — to educate and inspire people to take action to beautify their community.

“Ed Jordan is just a glowing example of that from taking the programs into schools at Carter County to just organizing volunteers.

“I believe (his being chosen) was the fact that he showed that one person truly can make a difference when you care enough and you have that passion.”

That passion is still strong, but Jordan said he’s pleased with the changes he’s seen in the county the past half-decade.

“We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go,” Jordan said. “This is going to be a generational change to bring this about.

Jordan said young people are key to a generational shift regarding litter.

“That’s the reason I was happy to see so many children that participated in last Saturday’s clean up event at the Tweetsie Trail and the quarry.”

Jordan said the area benefits in many ways from a more aggressive approach to combatting trash. He said his passion starts with his faith.

“That’s the reason my heart’s into it is because this is God’s creation that we are littering and destroying, it’s not a trash can,” Jordan said.

More worldly benefits await a county rich in eye-popping scenery, he said.

“The natural beauty that we already have here will be prettier without all the eyesore and the trash, and at the same time the tourists will come flock here because it’s so beautiful.

“Not too many people want to come to a trash laden community so that will bring tax dollars into our community and enhance our community greatly.”

He said the level of involvement has quadrupled since efforts began.

Marshall said that’s the way it works when people participate in cleanups.

The scene above Roaring Creek off Ripshin Mountain Road should be much different following a planned late May litter cleanup here.

“Picking up litter is a thankless job sometimes, it’s not glamorous, but once you get out there and do it it kind of really ignites something inside of you that says, ‘you know, this is just not right,’” she said. “You start to notice it more.” 

Volunteers are crucial, she said, mentioning this fact: TDOT spends $19 million a year addressing litter and littering issues. “These contributions make a difference,” she said.

The KCCB back story and all other details are at the new website kccbtn.org and at the group’s Facebook page.

Jordan is angling to get a wrecker service to help on the Ripshin Mountain Road project, where the terrain is so steep it could be dangerous to haul heavy stuff out by hand.

Jordan encouraged anyone who’s fighting litter alone or in a small group to send photos to the website or Facebook page, and alert the organization at keepcartercountybeautiful@gmail.com about any large sites.

“We’ll investigate it and see if it’s warranted to bring in a cleanup, which most of the time it is. Unfortunately.”

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