By Lora Scripps
A group of 84 volunteers scoured about 22 miles of the Elk River Canoe and Kayak Trail in Limestone County Saturday in search of trash and debris.
The cleanup, hosted by Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful in cooperation with the Tennessee Valley Authority, not only help rid the river of litter, but also served as reminder to take pride in one of the county’s treasures. The river serves as a source of recreation and beauty as well as the county’s drinking water.
Exactly 8,800 pounds of trash were removed from the river and surrounding areas. About 1,000 pounds of items found such as bottles and plastics were taken to Athens-Limestone Recycling Center to be recycled. Unfortunately, items such as shingles, bricks, roofing nails and tires were also hauled out of the river and off the land.
Put-in sites for cleanup operations were located on Alabama 127, Alabama 99, Easter Ferry Road and Elk River Mills.
The West Limestone Bass Fishing Club won the river cleanup contest hauling out 2,667 pounds of trash. The group was awarded $250 for their efforts. Athens High School Beta Club took second place and $150 after hauling out 1,733 pounds of trash, and third place along with $100 went to the River Otters for collecting 1,179 pounds of trash and debris.
A number of organizations and volunteers made the event possible, according to KALB Executive Coordinator Lynne Hart.
TVA provided the grant, but also boats, staff and supplies including trash bags and gloves. Don Bowling of Fort Hampton Outfitters provided kayaks and District 4 Commissioner Ben Harrison and his staff provided trucks and trailers to haul out trash.
The Athens-Limestone Visitors Center paid for food to feed volunteers and the Athens-Limestone Recycling Center provided a scale to weigh debris and trucks to haul recycling materials back to the center.
“We definitely want to thank all of our volunteers,” Hart said. “Some were on canoes and others were on land. We did a good sweep.”
Hart said the big message that came from the cleanup is “Stop it!”
“Just stop it,” she said. “It is not that expensive to go to the transfer station and dispose items. Our water comes from that river. That’s our drinking water. It’s the life of our community and provides recreation, fishing, boating, canoeing, hunting and more. I don’t understand why people treat it the way they do.
“We are pleased we had enough people to drag that much out of there, but sad that there was that much to get and that much more still left behind. It’s a sad state of affairs.”