Receding flood waters will leave behind an unsightly mess - branches, bottles, plastic wrap, barrels, hazardous materials, you name it. The melting snow in your neighborhood will expose plenty of refuse, too - trash, accumulated junk, rusty bikes, leftover bricks and boards.

The first you can blame on Mother Nature. The second you cannot.

Unfortunately, some people let their properties reach such a sad state of affairs that their negligence devalues adjacent properties and lowers the overall appeal of a neighborhood and community.

The issue goes beyond aesthetics and, in fact, is a public health concern. Tall grasses give rodents a place to hide, noxious weeds spread, abandoned tires attract mosquitoes, pet feces create a stink. Yuck all the way around.

Neighbors justifiably complain. The city, village, township or county become involved when the situation gets bad enough.

We can do better.

This spring, each and every resident should take a long, hard look around their properties. Get rid of the junk. Remove the debris. Eliminate the weeds and invasive specifies. Gather your household hazardous materials and take them to the local dropoff center; collections days are drawing near.

Then offer to help a neighbor do the same. Sometimes people need a hand but are too proud to ask.

And if you're one of the few whose lawns already look like a golf course, here's a challenge for you: "Adopt" a park, highway or riverbank in your community. Call the local Public Works or the state Department of Natural Resources and find out when they might be looking for volunteers.

Spring cleaning will be intense this year. Let's make the most of it.