Trashing East Texas: Who's Responsible In Wood County

Gary Branson loves his log cabin for many reasons.

"The serenity. The quiet. The trees," Branson said.

He owns another home across the way, and the pond and land in between. Once upon a time, he was hoping to develop it into a neighborhood.

"Some dallas folks came out. They said we love the home. Don't like the neighborhood. Can't take the trash," Branson said.

Prospective buyers drive in along Highway 80. Instead of beautiful countryside, the see houses like this, littered with tires, hoses, old engine parts, and unidentifiable things scattered all over the lawn.

This other mess is just a stone's throw from beautiful Lake Quitman. Neighbors moved here to retire, and they say they're tired of driving past the eye-sore everytime they leave their homes.

Lisa Martin has watched the problem get worse over the last four years.

"He just piles stuff on top of stuff. There's an old school bus. There's cars. There's refrigerators back in the back. I thought it was illegal to even keep refrigerators because of the freon.  I mean it's just unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable," Martin said.
Wood County Sheriff Dwaine Daugherty says nuisance abatments have been issued at both locations. If they're not cleaned up in a few days, it could lead to multiple citations and thousands of dollars in fines. Daugherty adds, there are just too many spots like this around the county for the department to handle them all.

"You really need a full-time person doing that because our top priority is protecting our citizens and our children," Daugherty said.

Only the Commissioners' Court could hire a peace officer who would be dedicated to cleaning up Wood County. The sheriff says there has been some talk of that happening, but no action yet.

We drove past the house along Highway 80. The homeowners were in the front yard, slowly cleaning things up. The sheriff's department says they will follow up with all of the locations, to make sure they're being taken care of as well.

If you have a trash problem in your area, call the Wood County Sheriff's Department, and file an official complaint. The number is 903-763-2201.

The sheriff says to allow a month or two for the problem to get taken care of. If it's not, call again.

Lindsay Wilcox/Reporting: