Chris and Susan Morris walk the trails nearly every morning and usually have a trash bag with them
MATTHEWS – There is an entrance to the Four Mile Creek Greenway about 50 feet out the front door of my house, so there’s really no excuse for me not to use it.
I walk my dog on some of the 2.26-mile paved trails nearly every morning. In the afternoon, I meet my babysitter, who lives within a five-minute walk of the greenway, to pick up my youngest daughter.
Like my babysitter, I am very much a routine person. My walks with my dog, Julius, and my child exchanges take place at nearly the same times every day.
And I think a lot of people are like that.
Some of the people I encounter on the greenway know me and my dog’s name, but almost everyone I come across I have seen at some point before.
Two of those people are Susan and Chris Morris, and here’s their story.
It’s probably been for around about the last decade, but certainly since they retired – Susan as a Parish secretary at Christ Episcopal Church on Providence Road and Chris as an electrical salesman – that they started their part hobby, part contribution to society.
Susan Morris said it probably began because they were finally getting to walk in the morning sunlight instead of the dusk of night after they both retired.
Whenever it was, the tradition started in the Lansdowne neighborhood they lived in before moving to the Plantation Estates expansion in Matthews.
Chris Morris lovingly called Susan “The Lansdowne Bag Lady,” but has since switched the moniker to fit their new location in Plantation Estates.
Susan doesn’t really care for her nickname, but she likes picking up trash. They both do.
“People will throw their trash down when there is a trash can right there in sight,” Susan said, standing on the greenway within 10 feet of one of many trash cans located throughout the various trails. “ We see bottles just right there, and we say ‘You lazy people. Just put it in the trash.’
“I guess I just like it. Cleaning up trash makes me feel good.”
Susan and Chris say they have come across some interesting things, including a bike they found stashed in some weeds near a trail by Matthews Elementary School. They tried to get it refurbished for someone who needs it, but were told the police would investigate it. They found a backpack with weeks-old papers floating in the creek after a recent high rain. Sometimes they find clothing. If it’s old, they toss it, but if it’s wearable, it’s taken home, washed and sent to Goodwill.
“We’ve found all kinds of stuff. We found a $20 bill,” Chris says with a laugh.
But it’s mostly bad. They pick up a lot of soda bottles, beer cans, plastic bags, cups and other commonly left-behind items.
“We have determined that Bud Light is the most popular beer and Marlboro is the most popular cigarettes from all that we’ve picked up out here,” Chris said. “I guess if we find a Bud Light container and a cigarette pack, it’s going to be a good day.”
But the problem isn’t just on the greenway. It’s everywhere.
“People park in that lot across from (COS Kids Matthews on John Street) and throw out their beer cans and pizza boxes or whatever,” Susan said. “We see it there all the time.”
On one of the very rare days the pair wasn’t out walking together, Chris decided to cut off his route and head more toward downtown Matthews.
“I was walking downtown and I had two grocery bags with me and found another (couple) on my walk,” he said. “By the time I got even halfway down Charles Street, I had filled all four bags. I hadn’t even picked everything up because I didn’t have any room. It was crazy.”
But Susan and Chris enjoy picking up trash and taking their morning walks.
“It’s so peaceful out here,” Susan said standing on the greenway. “We meet such interesting people and often see the same people, so you become familiar with them and sort of get to know them.”
And people have begun to notice Susan and Chris.
Brakeman’s Coffee stopped them one morning, took their picture to put on their website and thanked them for picking up the trash. They say people often thank them on the greenway or even roll down their window from a car in traffic to offer their appreciation.
“Come on and join us,” Chris tells them. “It’s easy, and there’s a lot of trash out here to pick up.”