BENICIA (KPIX) – The city of Benicia says a couple picking up trash along the roadways is setting a bad example and has asked them to stop.

It is perfectly legal for Sindy Harris and her husband Steve Morgan to take a walk along Bayshore Road in Benicia. But the minute they reach out to pick up trash they are breaking the law.

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“And we are staying 6 feet away from everybody! We are utterly alone!” Harris said.

(CBS)

Harris and Morgan were proud to clean 12 miles of Highway 780 as part of the Adopt-a-Highway program, but Caltrans cancelled that effort during the COVID-19 outbreak.

So, the couple began cleaning rural roads in Benicia instead, like Bayshore near the waterfront. That’s when they got an email from the City Manager asking them to stop. It said others in the community were not taking the emergency seriously and staying home and it requested the couple stop picking up trash to “help with modeling the right behavior for everyone.”

“They want to see themselves as being on the right side of the issue,” Harris said, “even if it kind of throws common sense out the window.”

The couple is fully trained, wear gloves, use grabbers to pick up the trash and work only on roads with virtually no pedestrians.

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Morgan says prohibiting that while allowing others to grocery shop or take walks in the park is an example of government creating blanket rules that don’t require any thought behind them.

“I’m hoping reason will start to win out and people will start to back off of the things that really aren’t protecting us,” he said.

“We’re losing sight of what’s important here,” said Matthew Bianchi, owner of a hauling company called ‘I’m Hauling for You.’ He was inspired by the couple’s commitment, so much so that he is using his company, designated an essential service, to remove what Harris and Morgan pick up.

“To criticize someone who’s doing something for a public service doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

Harris has spent years quietly cleaning up when others wouldn’t lift a hand, so the response from her community hurts.

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“It actually kind of makes me sad,” she said, “because I feel the only appropriate response is ‘Thank you.’”