Prime Living: Aiken County resident serves community picking up one piece of litter at a time

·3 min read

Jun. 16—GRANITEVILLE — James Cosnahan, a retired trucker with his 80th birthday now on the near horizon, has logged more than a million miles over the course of several decades, but he's particularly familiar with a 3-mile stretch of pavement.

Jefferson Davis Highway, between Sunset Memorial Gardens and the Clearwater CVS Pharmacy, has been a focal point for him and dozens of other volunteers based at Midland Valley Community Church of the Nazarene, in support of the Keep Aiken County Beautiful program.

Cosnahan, in turn, is a former KACB board member and one of the program's oldest active volunteers, with local involvement also including membership in the Midland Valley Lions Club and on the Aiken County Election Commission. His background includes service as a bus driver for Trailways and Aiken County schools. At church, he's an usher and greeter.

On four Saturday mornings a year, he is normally in action along the highway, helping put people and equipment in the right places to handle a ton or two of bottles, plastic bags ("urban tumbleweeds," as one volunteer called them), cans, car parts, baby clothes, tools and occasionally money and a wallet or two. Roadkill is also part of the scene.

"We do it once a quarter, and we're just tickled to do it," said Cosnahan, noting that his church has provided adopt-a-highway support for a decade.

He and his wife, Marion, have been together slightly longer, having recently celebrated their 11th anniversary.

"We're going to go for 50," he said, with a laugh.

As for the quarterly trash patrol, he added, "It makes me feel so good that we have people that come out on Saturday morning and give their time to pick up other people's trash. It's just awesome, and one of these days, people's going to say, 'Hey, we're going to quit throwing this out, because I know they're getting tired.'"

Gary Bunker, chairman of the Aiken County Council, described Cosnahan as "passionate about the litter issue" and as someone who "makes a tremendous difference in making our community a better place."

Aiken resident Marra Hunkins, 15, a member of the roadside crew, also offered a thought about Cosnahan. "He's sweet, and he's involved in a lot of stuff and ... always very welcoming," she said.

Cosnahan's professional background includes plenty of good stewardship.

"I was a truck driver, hauling nuclear fuel rods and nuclear waste all over the United States and Canada," he said.

He worked for Hittman Transportation Services, based in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, focusing on such chores as carrying fuel roads out of a Westinghouse plant in Columbia to such destinations as the Savannah River Site and Utah — "anywhere they had a waste plant."

Cosnahan's battle plan against roadside trash goes into action in March, June, September and December, and emphasis is on working early in the day, with 20 to 30 volunteers in action from 7 to 10 a.m., while temperatures and traffic are relatively favorable.

The Burnettown Police Department has squad cars nearby, with blue lights in action, to remind drivers to approach with caution or risk a ticket.

"God's blessed us. We haven't had anyone get hurt or anything in about the 10 years that we've been doing it," he said.

Cosnahan's group put the brakes on its participation during 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and got back on board in March, and the most recent outing took place June 13.

The dozens of other local adopt-a-highway groups, from Ridge Spring and Salley to Jackson and Belvedere, also develop and follow their own schedules.

The idea involves "being a servant," Cosnahan said. "I enjoy helping people and doing things for the community."

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