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Bottles, cans, dressers and a mini-fridge: How volunteers helped clear trash from the Chattahoochee
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A man fishes at Longwood Park Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Sweep the Hooch happened over the weekend at the Gainesville park as well as the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue and Don Carter State Park. - photo by Scott Rogers

Kayakers, canoers and walkers combing the Chattahoochee River found more than 25 tons of trash --  and furniture fit for a college dorm room.

The trash was collected in the 10th annual “Sweep the Hooch” event, with three Gainesville sites in the headwaters including Don Carter State Park, Longwood Park and the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue.

There were more than 1,000 volunteers throughout the entire Chattahoochee watershed, with more than 200 of those in the headwaters.

James Watson, facilities and watersports manager at Lake Lanier Olympic Park, said there were 30 volunteers this year at the Olympic venue, roughly double the help from last year.

About a third of the volunteers were equipped with kayaks, canoes and other personal watercraft to help clear the waterway of bottles, cans and other trash. One of their more peculiar finds was a mini-fridge.

The crew at the Olympic venue filled up two-and-a-half 6-yard dumpsters, Watson said, which they were in the process of weighing Wednesday, Sept. 2. He also said this was the first year at the site that they were able to implement recycling.

“Normally, it’s hard to find a company that wants to recycle lake trash — bottles, cans, that kind of stuff,” he said.

Certain sites capped the number of volunteers, and volunteers were required to maintain social distancing and bring masks.

“It might have seemed less at one site, but there were more volunteers throughout the region,” said Mallory Pendleton, headwaters outreach manager for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.

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The annual Sweep the Hooch happened over the weekend at Gainesville's Longwood Park. The clean-up event also included Lake Lanier Olympic Venue and Don Carter State Park. - photo by Scott Rogers

Shanda Sexton, executive director of Keep Hall Beautiful, worked at the Longwood Park effort and said she was pleased with people following the COVID health guidelines. 

There were 33 volunteers at Longwood, an increase by a handful compared to the year before, picking up 83 bags of trash weighing 832 pounds.

“We had an influx in numbers even with COVID being in place,” Sexton said. “I was very surprised.”

One other interesting find was one of our kayakers found a floating coconut.
Shanda Sexton, executive director of Keep Hall Beautiful

Those working at Longwood found a two-drawer dresser, Sexton said.

“One other interesting find was one of our kayakers found a floating coconut,” she said. “He actually thought that was kind of interesting to find that one just out in the middle of the water.”

A representative from the Don Carter State Park effort was not available for comment Wednesday, Sept. 2.


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Geese gather Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, at Gainesville's Longwood Park. Over the weekend, the annual Sweep the Hooch happened at Longwood, as well as the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue and Don Carter State Park. - photo by Scott Rogers
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