March 8 was a beautiful Saturday morning. The sun was shining, the water was glistening, the birds were singing. It was the perfect day to be at the river...fishing, boating, or just enjoying nature.
85 people took advantage of that beautiful morning, but chose to spend it in a way that may not have been very enjoyable to some. They came out to clean up trash and debris from the river and its surrounding land. Why? Because these good people understand the value of the Elk River to Limestone County. Our drinking water is drawn from that river. Residents enjoy fishing, boating, camping, and other outdoor activities in and around this river. It is a tremendous asset to our community and they understand that it needs protection.
Volunteers spread out to four put-in spots including Hwy 99, Easter Ferry Rd., Hwy 127, and Elk River Mills. They also went to dump sites on Grigsby Ferry Rd. and Townsend Ford Rd. Others went out on canoes and kayaks (kayaks provided by Fort Hampton Outfitters), and the TVA boat looking for trash along the shorelines.
Some groups were registered in a contest sponsored by TVA to win cash for bringing in the most pounds of trash and debris. This was additional incentive for the groups to work hard! They hauled in roofing shingles, old tires, TVs, broken concrete, lots of plastic bottles and too many glass beer bottles. Volunteers not only lugged it all in, they helped place it on the scale to be weighed, then moved it all again into the trucks and trailers that would haul it off.
In the end, 8,800 pounds of trash and debris were removed from the area. Ben Harrison, District 4 Commissioner, brought two trucks and trailers to haul trash to the transfer station and both were completely loaded. Ruby McCartney, Plant Manager at the Athens-Limestone Recycling Center, brought two trucks to haul recyclables. 1,000 pounds of the debris was sorted from the trash and recycled.
After a hard morning's work, the volunteers received lunch courtesy of the Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association. Teresa Todd, President of Tourism, said they were pleased that our volunteers were helping clean up one of the county's tourist attractions.
Winners of the group contest were: 1st Place ($250) - West Limestone Bass Fishing Club; 2nd Place ($150) Athens High School Beta Club; and 3rd Place ($100) The River Otters.
How does it get to the river?
Deliberate dumping and littering contribute debris to our waterways, as do non-deliberate actions. A piece of litter accidentally blowing out of your car or from your boat would be considered non-deliberate. When trashcans are knocked over by animals or the wind and debris is scattered by the wind and rain, although accidental, this also contributes to the trash that makes its way to our waterways. We must remember that whether deliberate or accidental, there is a person and a behavior behind every piece of litter and debris we find.
Keep litter bags in your vehicles to prevent litter from getting loose. Never throw loose trash in the bed of a truck and cover any load being carried. Make sure trashcan lids are secured and measures are taken to keep animals from scattering your trash. Handle fishing line and other sporting equipment responsibly. Dispose of cigarette butts properly. In short, just make yourself aware of how you handle your trash.
To those who came out on a beautiful day and worked so hard, THANK YOU! To those who toss trash, fling beer bottles, and dump on our land, please consider the harm that is being done and STOP!
By: Lynne Hart