My View: T-I proves the ‘awesome power of the press’

Moab Solutions Founder Sara Melnicoff praised The Times-Independent in a recent column about the 15-year history of the organization she started and the impact that The T-I has made during those years. Photo by Carter Pape

Anniversaries provide a perfect opportunity to enjoy memories and quiet reflection. We have been doing just that as Moab Solutions celebrated 15 years of being last month. A large part of any success we’ve had has been because of our long relationship with The Times-Independent.

Way back, in her Jan. 6, 2005 column, we were included on Adrien’s list of the top 10 stories of 2004. She wrote: #5 is the evolution of the Solutions group, cleaning up our environment, and doing themselves, and all of us, proud.

Details from history can easily get lost in the vast spaces of time, but I recall some vividly. In fact, the success that Common Thread/Operation Cooperation enjoys was due in large part to a photo and caption that landed on the front page of the T-I in 2004. It showed some of the piles of trash and recycling I collected over at Potato Salad Hill during jeep week activities.

That photo caught the eye of Jeff Knoll, an avid off-roader. He was ashamed of that type of behavior, believing it cast a negative light on all off-road enthusiasts. Jeff contacted me and we started a partnership that lasted for many years. In 2005, the first official year of the project, he called out to the off-road community to help us during our “first light” cleanups at the hill, and to come pick up trash and recycling during the day.

Since those times, the project has expanded and grown in ways we never could have imagined. Except for a hiccup or two here and there, things have improved dramatically at PSH, where we work to maximize recycling and cleanups, and minimize off trail damage, while keeping everything open and fun for attendees.

If the T-I hadn’t published that captioned photo on their front page, and if Jeff hadn’t happened to see it, I doubt the project would have taken the direction it did. The awesome power of the press in action!

But that’s not all The Times has done to aid our mission. Our first major project, Friends of the Parkway, which aims to get all sections of the in-town parkway adopted by folks wanting to remove trash and recycling, and alert us to any problems, started in August of 2004. It continues to this day and was well-covered by the T-I. Since then, we have removed thousands of pounds of recycling and trash from all areas of the parkway and have cleaned up at least 50 abandoned homeless camps and drinking spots.

One of our most important projects emanated from Friends of the Parkway. When we stumbled upon the many homeless living on the parkway, and engaged with them to help us clean up the parkway lands, our mission expanded to cover helping people. And coverage from The Times kept on coming! We met weekly with the homeless for five years, learning about them and how they ended up homeless.

We got everybody off the parkway and into housing, reunited with family, into rehab, and sadly, sat with one as he died. The community stepped up to help. First Baptist held a weekly dinner, which was well attended by the homeless and others in the community. This marginalized population got the love and support they needed to nourish their own desire to change their lives. Community members knit hats, donated fresh fruit, acted as mentors, hired folks out for yard work, and more. We continue working with the homeless population, and anyone in a situation requiring emergency assistance. We raise about $25,000 a year to answer calls for help.

We started out removing trash and recycling from the highways, byways, streams and trails of this gorgeous region, advocating for zero waste, and trying to make recycling as easy or easier than wasting. We ended up doing all that and more! We are very grateful to The Times for all the pep talks and coverage of our projects. I would say, “Here’s to 15 more,” but I’m getting too old to say that!