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Lake Laniers shoreline gets a fall cleanup
Furniture, foam, tires, even a grill pulled from lake during annual sweep
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Randy Hines picks up trash along the shoreline of Lake Lanier Olympic Park in Gainesville on Saturday during the Shore Sweep. About 30 tons of trash are collected each year. - photo by Erin O. Smith

New year, different trash

What do old tires, lawn furniture, faded clothing, boulder-sized Styrofoam blocks and a rusted gas grill all have in common? If you answered, “they were pulled out of Lake Lanier on Saturday,” you hit the nail on the head.

Saturday, groups of volunteers met at the lake’s parks and marinas to participate in the 28th annual Shore Sweep. They  pulled thousands of tons of trash and debris from the lake and its shores.

An estimated 1,000 volunteers spent their mornings working in Dawson, Forsyth, Gwinnett and Hall counties along the lake, a combined effort from local businesses and government agencies.

At Clarks Bridge Park in Gainesville, workers from Keep Hall Beautiful helped by accepting trash from groups of boaters and loading it into a dumpster provided by Hall County.

At the station, the question on everyone’s minds seemed to be: Where is it all coming from and why?

“We are baffled,” said Kelly Norman, director of Keep Hall Beautiful.

Norman led the group of Clarks Bridge Park workers. She said though the different groups around the lake remove thousands of pounds of trash, next year they will be at it again facing a fresh load of refuse.

Norman says the new strategy is to prevent trash from getting into the lake in the first place. By pushing recycling and pollution education programs in local schools, the group hopes to create a new generation of conservationists.

“We educate the whole family, because the kids learn, and then go home and teach their parents,” Norman said.

Norman hopes someday a shore sweep won’t be necessary.

“One day people will understand,” Norman said. “We just need to explain that Lake Lanier is our most important natural and ecological resource.”

Others though, are not so hopeful. Howard Bradley, a Shore Sweep veteran, thinks the event is inevitable as long as people live around Lake Lanier.

“There will always be illegal dumping of some kind here,” Bradley said.

Another long time volunteer, Scott Broome said that he thinks alcohol might be to blame for all the waste.

“People get drunk, and stuff falls in,” said Broome.

“I’m not sure how that falls in though,” he says, pointing to a large dented gas grill that was found along the shore by motorists.

Norman said most volunteers who participate regularly have seen every kind of cast-off item imaginable, and are always surprised by things like the grill, which could have been recycled for a cash refund.

By the end of the event, the Clarks Bridge Park dumpster was full of trash. It and the smaller pile of recyclables will be added to what was collected by other groups within the next week.

Norman estimates her group collected several tons of trash.

“The great thing about this event is that we work consistently on the shore throughout the year, but during the event we have a fantastic community of boaters who come out and reach all the areas of the lake inaccessible by land,” Norman said.

“I know It’s cheesy to say, but many hands makes light work.”