Clean up messy exit

First impressions are important. And if visitors' first impression of South Carolina is Exit 90 off of Interstate 77, they are likely to conclude the state is populated with thoughtless litterbugs.

Business owners along Carowinds Boulevard near the first I-77 exit in the state are pleading for a cleanup. Within sight of the exit are piles of fast-food bags, cans and other debris.

Owners have been lobbying the S.C. Department of Transportation for months to clean the area. They, along with chamber of commerce officials and tourism leaders, met with DOT staff recently to push for the cleanup.

The money for a full-scale landscaping was available four years ago, but the plan fell apart when no local government would commit to maintaining the property. Now, according to DOT officials, the money no longer is there.

Admittedly, this would have been a significant commitment on the part of a local government such as the York County Council. Millions of state and federal dollars were available for enhancing the exit and making it more welcoming to visitors, but the county would have been required to match 25 percent of the total cost and agree to maintain the exit.

Nonetheless, a spiffy new entrance to the state would be a good way to welcome visitors and create a better first impression. With hospitality tax money available for the project, the County Council might be more amenable to the proposal. And Bennish Brown, executive director of York County's Visitors and Convention Bureau, will be talking to state representatives, area mayors and county council members about joining forces on the improvements.

Meanwhile, businesses in the area might get special permission to cut the overgrown grass and brush near the exit and pick up litter on the state and federally-owned property adjacent to their buildings.

We hope government officials will step up this time to at least ensure that the exit is cleaned regularly. We don't want out-of-state visitors thinking we're all a bunch of slobs.

Community and government officials need to get behind effort to clean up first S.C. exit on interstate.