Driving on the roads surrounding the Pilot Travel Center in Moriarty, trash is in evident abundance, caught on barbed wire and plants, and hitched up against fenceposts and against the sides of buildings.
Nearby residents say they are tired of cleaning up the mess, and Moriarty’s mayor, Ted Hart, has gotten involved, with a meeting with Pilot representatives set for next week—specifically to address the trash.
While a spokesperson for Pilot told The Independent that the company is working with the city, Hart disputed that, saying it was very difficult for him to arrange a meeting to discuss the problem, and that so far Pilot has not taken any actions to help mitigate the trash problem.
“While the adjacent property is not part of our store footprint, we want to be good neighbors and that is why we are taking additional steps, including working with city officials, to implement a remedy,” said Pilot spokesperson Stephanie Myers in an email to The Independent.
Hart said that he has had to go through several levels of corporate management to get them to call him back and make an appointment to talk about it.
“When they came into Moriarty, they said there would be weekly cleaning,” Hart said, adding, “Pilot is supposed to be the cleanest business, that is what they claim anyway.”
“We completed a thorough cleanup of the property and have implemented a plan going forward to have more options for litter disposal. In addition, we have scheduled extra resources to monitor and maintain the cleanliness of the adjacent property.” Myers wrote.
Hart said Moriarty has cited Pilot Travel Center under its nuisance ordinance because the trash is a health and safety issue for the community.
He said a court date is set for May and the city hopes to settle the issue outside of court next week. “If we don’t get an answer we like next week, we will take it to court,” Hart said. “I’m very upset about this. And people should be upset—this is their home!”
He said he has never seen the trash get this bad in the 10 years Pilot has been on N.M. 41. He said Covid has hampered Pilot’s ability to clean more regularly as well as community cleaning efforts, but said that is only part of the issue.
Hart said he has seen trash blow out of trash cans outside the Pilot Travel Center. He said they have trash cans with no tops on them. “That’s beyond Covid,” he said. He said he has been working on the trash issue and two other issues regarding the trucks since December.
“We apologize to our neighbors and guests and are committed to maintaining the cleanliness of our store and the adjacent property, which is why we have put a plan in place to take extra steps to address this issue going forward,” Myers said.
A homeowner in the Homestead Estates neighborhood behind Pilot said she has lived in the area for 17 years and started cleaning up trash regularly after the Pilot was built.
Several homeowners in the area regularly pick up trash and one family reached out to both Pilot and the city of Moriarty about the problem about a year ago. She said Pilot told her the company is only responsible for the trash on its property, and the city told her that Pilot had already been cited for trash.
She said she thought the property value of her house was going down because the area is now unsightly, as trash can be seen all over the Homestead Estates neighborhood, and in all the fields around the Pilot.
She also said her relatives are surprised at seeing all the trash when they visit as well. “I would like to see [Pilot] hire someone to pick up all the trash,” she said.
Another resident of Homestead Estates, and former board member of its Homeowners’ Association, Ray Sharbutt, said the neighborhood fought the Pilot coming in.
Sharbutt has owned a home in the neighborhood since 2004, one of approximately 90 homes in the area. He said the neighborhood is not annexed into the city and pays for its own maintenance and trash pick-up.
He said twice a year the HOA organizes a neighborhood cleanup, providing a roll-off container for a week. He said the main thing the neighborhood was worried about with Pilot’s arrival was the litter it would bring into the area.
Sharbutt’s complaints about Pilot go beyond litter, and include issues with traffic and big trucks driving through the Homestead Estates neighborhood.
Hart said he sees the litter as a “business issue, not a customer issue.” He said Pilot knew coming into Moriarty that the area was windy, but said the company hasn’t taken any precautions to combat the windy conditions. He said, “90% of the cause of the trash is off of their lot.”
Hart said the city’s priority is getting the area cleaned up. He said the city will set restrictions for trash receptacles after it’s all cleaned up.
If Pilot won’t clean up the trash, the city will hire a crew and take care of it, and send the bill to Pilot, Hart said.
He said the city already made a cleanup attempt with six men, but there was such a volume of trash there was no possible way for them to clean it all in one day.
“They didn’t even put a dent it in,” Hart said. “It’s going to take several days to clean up.”
Hart said volunteers will be cleaning up along Highway 41 this weekend for Earth Day.
The city of Moriarty is held a free trash day on April 22-25.
Towns all around the area including Tijeras, Edgewood, Estancia and Mountainair held trash clean-up days over the weekend as well.
In Edgewood, the Walmart has created a similar situation, with trash blowing from the property into neighboring fields and along roads since the building went up.
Trash from the Walmart parking lot, trash cans and Dumpsters blow trash into the fields surrounding the building and onto Church Street.
When The Independent reached out to Walmart and asked them about their responsibility as a “corporate citizen” to the area, about past cleanup efforts and whether any future cleanups are planned, a spokesperson responded by stating only: “Thanks for making us aware of the issue and thanks for the patience of the community as we remodel. We are looking for ways to quickly address with the store. We want to continue to be a good member of the community.”