Volunteers picked up an estimated 30 tons of trash from the shoreline of Lake Lanier on Saturday as part of the Lake Lanier Association’s 31st annual Shore Sweep.
About a thousand volunteers showed up to 12 different sites to clean up trash, which often flows into the lake when storms pass through, Lake Lanier Association Executive Director Jennifer Flowers said.
“The trash comes from either on-lake uses — like we have a lot of the larger dock floats that we do get — or it’s anything within the Lanier watershed or the basin of Lanier,” Flowers said. “So all the rivers that feed into Lanier bring trash with them everytime it rains. Any parking lot around this area that has trash in it — if that washes off, it’s gonna eventually end up in Lake Lanier.”
As trash builds up, it can make an area not only unattractive but also become dangerous to wildlife as trash breaks down into smaller pieces.
“It seems like it’s not a big deal, but as it gets to be microplastics or even styrofoam breaking down — then it just ends up in the environment, and animals can eat it and that sort of thing,” Flowers said.
Many volunteers came just wanting to make Lake Lanier look its best, Shanda Sexton, the executive director of Keep Hall Beautiful, said.
Some came with local businesses but many were unaffiliated with a group.
“Really it’s just something that they can get out here to do, and they like to be able to help within their community,” Sexton said of the volunteers. “A lot of them live in this area and they want to see it clean and keep their recreational usage of the lake as clean and safe as possible.”
David Hood, a resident living near the lake, said what drew him to Shore Sweep was a sense of local pride. He said he had been doing this kind of cleanup work on a smaller scale at home before finally deciding to help with the community effort.
“We live on the edge of the lake so it means a lot to us to have a clean place to use and to enjoy,” Hood said. “We’ve done it around our house and just done it up there. We just want to be able to help make a difference.”
For the Lake Lanier Association, initiatives like Shore Sweep are part of the organization’s mission to maintain the lake and ensure it stays a pillar of Hall County.
“Lake Lanier is such an important part of our community and kind of identifies us,” Flowers said. “So a shoreline that’s just littered completely with trash is not beautiful and no one wants to come and swim in it and boat in it and see that when they come to events.”