Etowah River cleanup set for Saturday, volunteers sought
by Matt Shinall
Aug 22, 2010 | 1547 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On the edge of the Etowah River off Macedonia Road lies an illegal dumping ground scarred by years of abuse and misuse. Saturday morning, Keep Bartow Beautiful, Coosa River Basin Initiative and students from Georgia Highlands and Berry colleges will join forces to clean the blighted area.

Keep Bartow Beautiful has partnered with CRBI to help further recreational use of the river by cleaning its banks and increasing accessibility.

"We've tried to be out and about and on the river. We've tried to have the rivers be our face and our effort to kind of compliment the lake cleanup where all the lake residents and community members get involved," said Sheri Henshaw, KBB coordinator. "The rivers are often overshadowed by the lake, and so we try to make sure that we get young people out on the rivers and keep them clean too because that is so very, very important."

Asking for further assistance, Joe Cook, riverkeeper and CRBI executive director, implored community members to help preserve the resource found in the Etowah, which he feels goes under-appreciated due to poor accessibility.

"We really do want people from the community to come out and help out with the cleanup. Anybody that has tried to use the Etowah and tried to canoe and kayak on it knows how difficult it is to get in and out of the river and so those that have been out there appreciate how much we need some new public access points along the Etowah," Cook said.

The hope for this project is to help create a launch site for recreational river use. Cook said the property owner is interested in possibly leasing the land to Bartow County to provide public access for the river.

"The idea of this cleanup is to show some goodwill to the property owner and to begin, I guess you'd say, the dialogue about using this site as a public access point and constructing a boat launch there," Cook said. "This river cleanup is an effort to kind of get that property cleaned up and show the community the potential that is there, but the first step is getting it cleaned up, getting all the trash out of there and trying to restrict access until we can develop it properly."

Once the work has been done to clean the area, barricades will be erected to keep trucks from entering the site and continuing the illegal dumping. Henshaw added that Bartow County Code Enforcement Officer Ken Ford will be on hand to check the debris for evidence.

Also participating in the cleanup and coordinating logistics for the event is KBB Summer Intern Jamie McKenzie. A graduate of University of Georgia majoring in ecology, McKenzie described some of the potential hazards from having an illegal dumping ground so close in proximity to a water source.

"Having any kind of trash next to a river is never very good, but depending on what's there when it rains, stuff will leach out of the trash and very negatively affect the health of anything that is living there," he said. "It messes up all kinds of life. It's just not good, and then if you have some of these construction materials and there's oil and stuff out there -- well, we've seen what oil does to the Gulf. I don't know if there's any oil out there or not, but it's not a pretty situation."

The CRBI has heavily promoted and fought for the formation of a 160-mile water trail along the Etowah River from Dawsonville to Rome. This stretch of water known as the Etowah Blue Trail has limited access, including only two public access points in the 48 miles between the Allatoona Dam and Rome. As a canoe and kayak enthusiast, McKenzie hopes to help further this effort with the Saturday cleanup.

"As somebody who really enjoys it, I really want other people to be able to do the same. So this cleanup, being a first step toward the establishment of a very family friendly and fairly easy river and kayak input and take-out spot, it goes a long way to ensure accessibility to a lot more people," McKenzie said.

The cleanup will take place Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Those interested in volunteering may call 770-678-9320 or e-mail jlmck2010@gmail.com.