One-man green team: A mission to keep Monte Sano litter free

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Each day when the sun crests over Monte Sano, light reveals the wonders of Huntsville's greatest natural resource. Each sunrise is also a harbinger of endless opportunities for humans to come along and mess it up.

One Huntsville man has taken it upon himself to combat that reality as best he can, armed only with a garbage sack and a trash claw.

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Roy Simmons is a one-man green team as he meanders all over Monte Sano to collect litter. (PHOTO: David Wood)

Roy Simmons has worked as a graphic designer in Huntsville since 1975. It's only been over the past year and a half that he can be seen on any given day walking along Bankhead Parkway using his 'nifty nabber' to remove what others have left behind.

"Road bikers; mountain bikers; runners; bird watchers; photographers; flower people." Simmons says of the diverse list of Monte Sano visitors.

But over the past few years Simmons has noticed the unmistakable signs of one other not-so-welcomed population -- litter bugs.

On his walks, Simmons has found broken bottles, fast food containers, cigarette packs and even instances of vandalism. Recently he found three 5-gallon paint buckets dumped over the side of an overlook and even rocks from the retaining wall seemingly busted out. And Simmons isn't afraid to stray from the beaten path. He often delves down some 60 feet down cliff sides and embankments, saying he once even found a pile of nearly 20 discarded tires.

"I enjoy driving up the mountain and not seeing litter," Simmons says, "so I started picking up a one mile section and I'd go, 'well, that wasn't too tiring, I'll carry it up the hill;' I've started at the bottom and walked to the top and back a whole bunch," Simmons laughs.

Down in some of the lesser-traveled areas, Simmons says he's even found used syringes hidden in the underbrush. He says littering isn't the only rule breaking going on atop Monte Sano.

"Some guy comes up here every day and drinks six Bud Lights and just throws the bottles out and breaks them and then comes and does the same thing the next day -- and that's pretty phenomenal," scoffs Simmons.

He has help. In addition to Huntsville City's Operation Green Team, SORBA, Monte Sano Civic Association,  and the Land Trust of North Alabama, Simmons says he's seen a few locals following his lead in a mission to clean up. Simmons just wants people to realize Monte Sano is a natural resource we should all take pride in and work to preserve.

"You know, we're all very very lucky to have a Monte Sano State Park and  Land Trust Preserve in our city for everybody to use to take your young kids out and introduce them to nature. So that's why I do what I do," Simmons says.

If you want to follow in Roy Simmons' footsteps and take it upon yourself to clean up you neighborhood, Operation Green Team can help you with free garbage bags and trash claws. You can also report litter in your community by calling (256) 53-CLEAN.