Residents battle to take back East Highland streets - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Residents battle to take back East Highland streets

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By Roslyn Giles  - email | bio

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The fight to take back East Highland, a community within Columbus that encompasses Talbotton Road to 13th Street at the Red Lobster, rages on despite two recent shootings that left four people injured.

Doug McLeod along with others have been at the helm of a revitalization movement for the past 14 years -- working day and night to bring the former middle class neighborhood ravaged with drugs and prostitution back to its roots.

McLeod, a lifelong resident of the area, is determined to rehabilitate East Highland.  "It was a wonderful place to live. The police chief lived on 22nd Street and the fire chief lived on 16th Avenue. The neighbors came together. If there was a problem, they supported each other in good times and in bad times. There was no talk or any concern about drugs."

The life McLeod enjoyed as a young boy and into adulthood started to change over a decade ago. The change sparked the start of an organization called, "The East Highland Improvement District" and later CAD, Columbus Against Drugs, both entities worked hand in hand to remove drug dealers and slumlords.

The organizations were active this week concentrating their efforts on cleaning up the area. Residents participated in liter pick-up events and marches with the popular chant: "Up with Hope, Down with Dope; We're not Taking it Anymore!". In addition, they assisted  police with targeting abandoned homes and illegally parked cars.  

Progress started to take shape several years ago. "This property at 14th Avenue and 23rd Street was a multi-story apartment complex and was a terrible drug haven." Through the movement's efforts, McLoed and others were able to get the property torn down. NeighborWorks now owns the land which sits a few feet from a row of new habitat homes, once the site of vacant houses.

Across the street is a beautiful building that's been renovated, once a nightclub where several shootings occurred.  The road recently paved gives the street a facelift.

But McLoed realizes that's just the beginning -- there is more work to be done. "The middle section from 22nd Street to 17th Avenue still has a lot of drug problems." His point was proven when we noticed at least ten pairs of tennis shoes dangling in the air tied to electrical wires at 26th Street and 15th Avenue.  "This indicates a heavy drug presence."

McLeod is planning more marches and with a successful National Night Out campaign earlier this month, he says he's determined to restore East Highland to the nice, comfortable community it once was, but said it's going to talk the help of everyone to get the job done.

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