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Coinciding cleaning events beautify county
0413clean 5
Volunteers from Three Dimensional Life residential recovery program hike into the southern “whale tail” section of Don Carter State Park Saturday as part of the larger “Sweep the Hooch” annual cleanup. Thirteen residents and four leaders were met by large deposits of high-water trash in two coves. Some of the trash was years old. “They were spent,” assistant park manager and DNR ranger Matt Owens, second from right, said Saturday afternoon of the volunteers. “They were an unbelievable help.” - photo by NAT GURLEY

Under a clear weekend sky, volunteers on land and water did some spring cleaning to make Hall County a bit more pristine.

Residents came together Saturday in seven county locations to pick up litter as part of the Great American Cleanup, the nation’s largest community improvement program, organized locally by Keep Hall Beautiful. Meanwhile on the Chattahoochee River, people paddled, hiked and waded to clear trash for the fourth annual Sweep the Hooch.

Tammy Bates, Outings Manager for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy group that organizes Sweep the Hooch, said it was coincidence that this year’s river cleaning fell on the national cleanup event, but it helped promote the spirit of the day’s goal.

Four paddlers in two canoes and a kayak worked the northern shoreline at Don Carter State Park, where volunteers met.

“They were an unbelievable help,” said assistant park manager Matt Owens, who organized the on-foot group.

Volunteers collected 72 trash bags, and heaps of unbagged trash filled two large park dumpsters, Owens said.

Park manager Will Wagner, maintenance chief Lee Carpenter and maintenance worker Josh Fain shuttled the collected trash from both paddlers and hikers and shuttled it back to shore and into park dumpsters, turning the park’s small three-seat boat into a garbage scow for a day.

The group said they anticipate the weight of junk cleaned up from the river and its banks will be in the 2 to 3 ton range.

“A lot of what we find, a good bit has been down there a long time,” Bates said.

Kelly Norman, executive director of Keep Hall Beautiful, said people are often more likely to throw trash where there already is trash.

Out of seven sites in Hall County for the Great American Cleanup, Norman spent the day at the Atlanta Highway one, where volunteers amassed heaps of trash, much of it plastic, along Flat Creek.

In addition to that site, other meeting locations included Oakwood City Park, Flowery Branch Train Depot, Fair Street Neighborhood Center, Lula Railroad Depot and Braselton Community Room.

“Last year we had three locations. This year we had seven,” Norman said. “It more than doubled. To have so many locations all working for the same common goal is awe-inspiring.”

And beyond the beautification, the event is about making communities more considerate in the future.
“The other really huge component of this is when we engage ourselves to clean the community, we realize the accountability we each have in maintaining that,” she said.

And perhaps that knowledge will make future cleans unnecessary.

“The hope is that the educational component has a trickle down effect, bringing awareness so that before someone throws something on the ground, they know the impact it has,” Norman said.

“Eventually we’d like to see where we don’t have to clean it up at all.”