Volunteer cleanup efforts underway at Lake Allatoona

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Striving to clear the lakefront of debris, Great Lake Allatoona Cleanup organizers are gearing up for the 33rd annual event.

Set for Oct. 6, the offering will feature a shoreline pickup from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by a volunteer appreciation picnic from noon to 2 p.m. at Riverside Park Day Use Area in Cartersville. In 2017, the GLAC drew 3,099 volunteers who retrieved of 7.31 tons of trash, including 45 tires.

"Our goal for participation is the more the better and to reach out and engage schools, civic clubs, organizations and individuals that have not previously participated in the annual event," GLAC Volunteer Coordinator Linda Hartsfield said. "We are continually ‘trying to get the word out’ and encourage participation. Since 1986, a majority of the GLAC participants have been Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Everyone’s participation is paramount in cleaning the shoreline — it teaches conservation, preservation and volunteerism.

"There are many Scouts that have come up through the ranks of Cubs and Brownies that have participated for several years as well as their Scout leaders. There are also individuals, lake users, environmental groups/clubs, corporations that clean year after year. Participant’s continued volunteerism is due to their awareness of Allatoona Lake’s importance to our local water supply, recreation, economy and the need to be involved in the lake’s preservation. For those that do not recreate on the lake and for some that do, but do not have an awareness of what types of trash is actually in and around the lake, it would be very enlightening and beneficial for them to spend a few hours to see what is [being] tossed into our water supply and recreation area."

While organizers are encouraging volunteers to sign up for GLAC prior to Oct. 3, cleanup efforts along Lake Allatoona's shoreline also are year-round.

"Yes, the lake is in much better shape — trash wise — due to the fact that the Lake Warriors and the Adopt-a-Mile Program coordinators have been so active," Hartsfield said. "Since January 2018, the Lake Warriors and Adopt-a-Mile coordinators have spent over 1,000 hours around the shoreline, collecting and removing 763 bags of trash and 232 tires. Both the Lake Warriors and Adopt-a-Mile coordinators are volunteers. These volunteers own a variety of watercraft, ski boats, bass boats, pontoons, canoes and kayaks that they use to collect trash; however, some volunteers do not have a vessel and they perform collection by foot.

"The canoers and kayakers have the ability to get into shallow coves and are able to clean and remove trash that larger watercraft are unable to reach. The Lake Warriors and Adopt-a-Mile volunteers are reaching areas that have not been covered during the previous lake cleanup’s due to lack of accessibility. The Lake Warriors and the Adopt-a-Mile program have made a huge impact on cleaning areas and removing trash that are not easily accessible."

Calling Lake Allatoona a "special resource," Dave Matthews — a GLAC committee member — serves as the coordinator for the Lake Warriors and the Adopt-a-Mile efforts.

"The Allatoona Lake Warriors was really born this winter," he said. "Lots of people from the lake community got tired of looking at all the trash and tires on the Allatoona. People have been treating the lake like a trash can for too long. So we got together on Facebook and started these massive cleanups. [My wife], Cindy, and I did this with the community for a while. Then one day, I got the best call ever. GLAC … called and wanted to meet with us. They had asked me to be part of the team, which was awesome. Then the Lake Warriors program was started. 

"Basically, the lake was broken into 18 zones. We have a captain for each zone. The zone captains are currently building their teams up with volunteers. There’s around 45 so far. We officially started this program on July 28. Our zone captains went straight to work and have been doing their own cleanup’s for the past two weeks. We will be organizing pickup days for all the trash they collected. In the past two weeks, everyone has collected around 50 trash bags and a few tires. Not bad for just getting started. Can’t wait to see what the lake looks like next year."

Matthews said the 18 zones' captains are: Zone 1, David Newton; Zone 2, Mike Bearden; Zone 3, Ray Williams; Zone 4 Mike Metelko; Zone 5, Byron Manley; Zone 6, Michael Schultz; Zone 7, Jeff Schott; Zone 8, Erin Penny; Zone 9, Megan Topper; Zone 10, Charles Depp; Zone 11, Wes Stephen; Zone 12, Byron Manley; Zone 13, Cindy Matthews; Zone 14, [Nancy] Ranfos; Zone 15, Shelly Baxter; Zone 16, Steve and Linda Beving; Zone 17, Melody and Conley Beacham; and Zone 18, Randy West.

"The lake has changed drastically in the past 10 months," Matthews said. "We, through the Winter Warrior and Lake Warrior programs, have taken out hundreds of bags of trash and tires. The lake and all the wildlife are much happier. There are days when we can’t find any trash to clean, those are the great days. Of course, when we get lots of rain, like we have this year, more trash floats into the lake. I’m not sure if we will truly ever win the war but with all of these warriors every battle with the trash is a victory.

"What stands out the most to me so far working with the Allatoona Lake Warriors is the commitment from the community. [At] our first meeting, around 45 people showed up. That’s pretty good. … Really looking forward to working with all these awesome people. Allatoona is a very special resource that we all have in our backyard. People really need to start treating it like a special place."

For more information about the GLAC or to register to volunteer, visit www.greatallatoonacleanup.org.