'Sweep the Hooch'
What: An annual event to clean the Chattahoochee River and surrounding areas
When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 12
Where: Don Carter State Park, 5000 N. Browning Bridge Road, Gainesville. Additional cleanup sites span the river.
How much: Free to register and participate
Sources: Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Don Carter State Park
Cleaning to kick off the season is a commonly practiced spring tradition. But it’s not limited to just kitchens and basements; it includes the Chattahoochee River.
April 12 marks the fourth year for the annual “Sweep the Hooch” event where volunteers clear waste from numerous sites within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
The event is organized by Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a nonprofit that helps preserve and protect the river and its surroundings, in partnership with the Upper Chattahoochee Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the National Park Service.
“Sweep the Hooch” spans nearly 60 miles of 27 cleanup sites, including walking, wading, and paddling volunteer locations.
Last year, the cleaning event saw more than 550 participants gather 3.7 tons of garbage and debris from the river.
“The goal (this year) is essentially the same, and that’s to get out as much trash as we possibly can,” said Tammy Bates, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper outings manager.
This year’s event also introduces a new cleanup site at Don Carter State Park.
“It’s something we’re glad to be a part of,” said Will Wagner, park manager. “This being our first year open, we wanted to jump on that (opportunity) and clean up our stretch of the river,” he added.
The park has a little over 10 miles of shoreline that will be targeted by a group of paddling volunteers, who will use kayaks and canoes to gather debris.
“We’ll have them (volunteers) paddle toward each other from our north and south boat ramps and clean up our most visited and visible parts of the shoreline,” said Wagner, who will lead the group to the developed parts of the park.
Park rangers and staff will be on hand to assist with shuttling vehicles and boats, and help to gather collected trash from volunteers.
The waste can range from plastic bottles and plastic foam to flip-flops, Wagner said.
While the park has several volunteers registered, Wagner said additional participants are needed and would be welcome. “We’ve still got room ... we’d love to have more,” he said.
In addition to volunteers from the event, a local group also plans to perform community service for the park by assisting in a cleanup project, said Matt Owens, assistant park manager.
Three Dimensional Life, a residential recovery program, will work with park staff to focus primarily on tackling a part of the park’s shoreline known as the “Whale’s Tail.”
The area, a cove set back in a deep bend, is “one of the dirtiest in the park,” said Owens. “It’s collected debris for decades, and having these young men down there doing physically hard work to help us clean it up should be significant.”
“Sweep the Hooch” is set for April 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Don Carter State Park is at 5000 N. Browning Bridge Road in Gainesville.
Registration will close at noon Wednesday and may close earlier if sites hit their capacity. Additional cleanup site locations and instructions can be found online. To register and find more information, visit chattahoochee.org or sweepthehooch.org.