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Keep Hall Beautiful plans cleanup efforts ahead of Spring Chicken Festival
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Buford resident Teri Summers stands among piles of garbage that was collected during a shore sweep April 14 at Lake Lanier in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes

Trash can accumulate quickly, especially in an ever-growing county. 

That’s why Keep Hall Beautiful, an organization that works to make sure Hall County is as clean as it can be for residents and guests, has spent the month of April leading cleanup initiatives across the county.

For Georgia Cities Week, a week dedicated to showing communities the services their city provides and the positive impact it has, Keep Hall Beautiful has narrowed its focus to making sure the city, specifically downtown Gainesville, looks its best.

In partnership with Main Street Gainesville, the two organizations will host the last sweep of the Great American Cleanup by cleaning areas along the downtown square from West Academy Street to Jesse Jewell Parkway, starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 25.

“We want to keep Hall clean, green and healthy, and part of doing that is making sure you get out in the community and clean up,” said Shanda Sexton, executive director of Keep Hall Beautiful. “Not only clean up, but be aware that throwing a piece of trash down — one person throwing it down may not seem like a lot, but when you have thousands of people doing it, it can add up in the long run and it can really impact the community.”

She said the cleanup April 25 will be the most predominant one of this year’s initiative and has been pushed on social media to get as many people involved as possible, especially with the Spring Chicken Festival the following Saturday.

“When you do have a large event like the Spring Chicken Festival, you’re going to have numerous people that see the benefits of what it is to get out and clean up and make your city and town and community look good by just a few hours of work,” Sexton said.

Events throughout the month focused on cleanup of Lake Lanier and its shores and at parks around the county.

On April 14, a group of volunteers gathered at Flat Creek Road, headed down a trail that led to Flat Creek, which flows into Lake Lanier, and jumped on kayaks, canoes, personal watercraft, paddle boats and pontoon boats. They combed through the brush along the shore of the creek, picking up litter that Bonny Putney, secretary of the board for Keep Hall Beautiful, said could be unintentional, blown off docks and boats by the wind.

“Wherever man meets water, you’re going to find trash,” said Putney, who is also vice president in charge of Shore Sweep for the Lake Lanier Association. “Everything ends up in the lake. Even if you’re in a parking lot somewhere and there’s storm drains there, that all goes down to Lake Lanier.”

That’s why she’s hoping the cleanup during Georgia Cities Week will help educate people about the trash they produce. After spending her time helping out in efforts like this since the 1980s, she wants to see the problem disappear.

“It’s one of the few things that we can do as a regular person and make a big difference,” Putney said. “You have so little control over what happens in the world, but there’s one thing we can do and that’s get a bunch of people out to clean up an area and make a difference that quickly. It’s instant gratification. You pick up a piece of trash and you feel good about it.”

Keep Hall Beautiful and Main Street Gainesville hope events like this encourage those who live in Gainesville and even those who simply visit the city to do their part in making sure trash doesn’t end up on the ground or in the lake.

“The goal of Keep Hall Beautiful and the goal of the city of Gainesville is always going to be to provide and create a welcome and clean community for our visitors,” said Catiel Felts, communications and tourism director for the city. “Not just for our visitors, but also for the people who live here every single day. We’re the ones driving up and down the road and noticing when there’s garbage.”