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Talking trash in the River Market

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Like a street in any nightclub district, President Clinton Avenue has a litter problem. Cigarette butts lie thick on the street any day; on Saturday and Sunday morning, the debris from partying the night before runs the gamut from butts and broken glass to blood and vomit.

Unlike most entertainment districts, however, Clinton Avenue is also the street that tourists and others stroll to get to the River Market, the Clinton Library, the Stephens Nature Center, the Main Library and other venues whose business is conducted during daylight hours and draws families. “It's an embarrassment,” district developer Jimmy Moses told property owners at the River Market District Neighborhood Association meeting on Wednesday. “We're inviting people into a sewer.”

Now, the neighborhood association is asking the city to schedule street sweepers to work the weekends, rather than weekdays, in the district, and for more garbage cans. Tim Heiple, association chair, said the group has bought and will soon begin installing cigarette butt receptacles on Clinton.

Mayor Mark Stodola, who attended the association's meeting with assistant City Manager Bryan Day, noted that code requires property owners to clean up in front of their stores to the curb and asked for “compliance.” But Ernie Biggs's Piano Bar owner Daniel Bryant pointed out that it's the streets, not the sidewalks, that are dirty. His employees, for better or worse, sweep into the street. Stodola suggested they use a dustpan. Tim Heiple, association chair, said in a “perfect world,” that might happen.

City parks used to assist in cleanup around the district, but budget cuts ended that. Property owners at one time got estimates on a private cleaning service, but it proved too costly and not all businesses were on board with footing the bill. The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, which now operates the River Market itself, cleans the market, the street in front and park area in back twice weekly, COO Jim Rice told the mayor.

No commitment was made on street sweepers. Stodola said the city would be able to provide more trashcans.

DeAnna Korte, executive director of Riverfest, suggested that organizations be encouraged to adopt the River Market District, in the same way they do highways, to provide help cleaning up. A surcharge on those who throw special events at the Riverfest Amphitheatre — which can produce tons of trash, now picked up by the city — was also proposed.

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