GEORGETOWN — Brad McCray stands in a ditch along Graves Station Street herding loose cans into a plastic bag on a Saturday morning, hopeful that putting in the work means his neighborhood won’t flood in future hard rains.
The Graves Station community is a brief, wooded one located along U.S. 521 immediately west of Georgetown city limits with side streets named seemingly after young women — Emily, Jessica and Amelia.
Drainage is one of the foremost community matters, as its ditches running to the nearby Sampit River have become overgrown over the years.
In an August meeting at New Light Baptist Church, county employees told the community’s residents that litter control and easements from nearby properties would be necessary to address long-held drainage issues.
Keeping area ditches free of litter, county public services director Ray Funnye said, could help convince nearby property owners to grant the easements required to widen and deepen the ditches.
So McCray is out here on a day when the brisk weather means the cleanup crew will get fewer volunteers than normal, a New York Giants cap on his head and love for the community in his heart.
“I’m the type of person, man, you ask me to do something, do a job, I’m gonna get it done,” McCray said. “Ain’t no, ‘Well, we’re gonna do it for a couple months, then stop.'”
McCray, the chairman of the community’s cleanup committee, recalled Graves Station’s tradition of having community cleanups decades ago. One way or another, he said, the cleanups faded before being revived in recent months.
“When I was a young boy, we had it every two months,” McCray said.
The easements that the community seeks would allow the county to bring heavy equipment, as well as possibly a logging contractor, to clear and clean the ditches.
County Councilman Everett Carolina said a signature for an easement has already been obtained from New Light Baptist Church, immediately next to which the community’s main ditch begins winding its way to the river.
Getting easements from the neighboring Friendfield and Silver Hill plantations will be crucial, as the ditches along Graves Station Street and near New Light Baptist are closely bordered by land owned by each plantation. Carolina said he is awaiting responses from the property owners.
After a lack of maintenance over the years, the community’s main ditch near New Light Baptist is packed with pine needles, leaves and fallen portions of the trees above.
“And so, where we have failed to do that, you have sizable tree growth,” Carolina said of the county’s maintenance of the ditch.
Carolina inherited Graves Station in his district, which covers southern Georgetown County from the coast to western Andrews, after the county’s latest round of redistricting. He also turned out for the community cleanup event on Jan. 14, where he pointed out the overgrowth of the main ditch while talking with resident Joseph Ward Jr.
“I live here, you’re supposed to keep your neighborhood clean,” Ward said. “So that’s why we’re out here cleaning up, keep the trash off the roads.”
Carolina said he has been inspired by the community’s action since meeting with them in August.
“Within every community, if you can get citizens’ involvement, get them engaged in (a) development situation where people learn to have pride in their community, that’s the main thing,” Carolina said.
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