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Volunteers clean up streams, streets in Oakwood
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Christian Wangemann, right, and Randy Toole pick up trash Saturday along a street in Oakwood as part of a community cleanup organized by the city. - photo by Tom Reed

Volunteers grabbed their gloves and litter sticks Saturday morning for the second annual Oakwood Stream and Roadside Clean-up at Oakwood City Park.

“We have one group that is going to be picking up litter on some internal city streets, and then we have a second group that will be going out and collecting litter and waste in the stream,” said Larry Sparks, the plan director for the city of Oakwood.

“Because of the recent rain, the water levels are up, so we will not be able to use the branch of Balus Creek that we intended to.”

Cindy Reed, executive director with Keep Hall Beautiful, assisted volunteers with electronic recycling, a new aspect added to this year’s cleanup.

“We added a new component because we wanted to make this our great American cleanup event,” Reed said. “From area residents, we are taking any electronics: computers, monitors and televisions to be recycled.”

As people drove up with electronics, volunteers unloaded the car for them.

Residents also could bring sensitive documents to be shredded.

“If people want to watch, we have guys who will take the boxes and dump them into the truck, and the people can see their things being shredded on a screen right in front of them,” Reed said.

Sparks said that part of the requirements for the Storm Water Management program for the stream cleanup is to do something on an annual basis, so he hopes to keep it going annually.

Sparks said Keep Hall Beautiful and Oakwood are continuing their coordination and cooperation with the city of Gainesville.

“They have a long-standing program with stream cleanup, and this is actually a part of their system, so their environmental division has been very helpful with getting our program going,” Sparks said.

Reed said about a ton of litter was picked up last year from streams and roads, and hoped to gather as much this year.

“We also want to get a ton of electronics recycled so they won’t go in a landfill,” Reed said.

Sparks said that his goal was to be able to not only help clean up the environment but also to instill community pride in keeping roads and streams clean.

“This gets people involved beyond the staff level, the government level, and the paid employees. These are people who are volunteering their time to do something in their community that they can be proud of,” Sparks said.

People can protect the environment on an everyday basis by avoiding litter, recycling and conserving water.

“I know that people think, ‘oh, we are not in a drought anymore and this is great,’ but we still need to be conscious of our water use,” Reed said. “We also have wonderful recycling programs all over the county and each individual city has programs, so people really need to take advantage of those programs.”

Gainesville City Councilman George Wangemann wanted to volunteer because cleaning up Hall County communities is a passion of his.

“My main thrust is keeping litter off the streets because eventually it flows into the streams and Lake Lanier,” Wangemann said. “I constantly tell myself that for every piece of trash that we pick up, that is one more piece of trash that will not go into Lake Lanier and thus pollute our source of drinking water.”

Regional events