More than 1,000 volunteers joined forces across 11 locations Saturday, Sept. 15, in an effort to keep Lake Lanier clean at the 30th annual Shore Sweep event.
Each year, thousands of pounds of trash are pulled from the lake and its shores.
“The event started 30 years ago and at that point consisted of mostly homeowners on the lake who wanted to come together and help keep their community clean,” said Wilton Rooks, President of Lake Lanier Association. “Now it has grown to include homeowners, marina employees, those who enjoy boating and other organizations and individuals in or near Hall County.”
Though Shore Sweep is held one Saturday in September, the initiative runs for two to three weeks before the main event.
“We always have several advance drop-off locations around the lake, so if someone wants to help out and they aren’t available on the event day, they are more than welcome to collect trash and drop it off whenever they please,” Rooks said.
Rooks explained that over the years that the event has been held, more than 1,000 tons of trash has been collected from 700 miles of shoreline. Items found include water bottles to mannequins, and even an old baby carriage.
Michael Thurmond, a member of Free Chapel, came out to help with his church at the Gainesville Marina location, along with several other groups such as the Boys and Girls Club of Hall County.
“We have about 30 church members out here today,” he said. “The church enjoys helping the community in any way it can, so when we heard about this event, we thought it would be a good opportunity to serve.”
At the Longwood Park location, members of Riverside Military Academy and the Aware Club of Gainesville High School worked with several homeowners on the lake to dispose of trash, including tires, lawn chairs, colorful balls like those used in a children’s ball pit and a waterlogged boat dock flotation device.
David Chamblin, a lake resident and event regular, was unable to attend last year’s sweep, but in 2016 his haul totaled 1,500 pounds.
“Usually I’m able to fill my entire barge full of trash. I think this event has had such a great impact on the lake over the years, and will continue to help in the future,” he said.
Lake residents Michael Putnam, a Shore Sweep first timer, and Bill Morrison, returning for his sixth year, both came to support the cleanup effort.
“It’s amazing to see what all gets pulled out the lake year after year,” Morrison said.
“I recently moved to Lake Lanier, but I think preserving its natural beauty is important,” Putnam said. “Being able to help with something like this feels very rewarding.”
And while volunteer work is serious, it can sometimes be fun. After helping move a dock support, members of the Aware Club at GHS decided to ride it behind a boat back to the drop site.
“After struggling a little bit to get it back into the water because it weighs so much, we might as well have some fun!” club member Dante Wilson said.