Elementary, middle and high school students involved with the Bartow County 4-H program teamed up with the Bartow County Environmental Management System, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bartow County Sheriff’s Office Code Enforcement to remove garbage, litter and debris from Riverside Day Use Area and Coopers Furnace Day Use Area.
“Its going on eight years that we’ve been doing this with 4-H and we do it to clean up the Etowah and its tributaries and to educate kids,” said Environmental Programs Division Head Sheri Henshaw. “[The USACE] are indicating, and we agreed, that we’re finding less trash — that’s a good thing. We still have a lot on the lake because of boaters and campers, but along the river it’s getting much better.”
Events such as the Rivers Alive cleanup have helped reduce trash and increase awareness. Educational lessons were held before and after the cleanup with emphasis on water conservation and the preservation of Cherokee and Etowah Darters, fish species found only in the Etowah River basin.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger Chris Purvis pitched in on the effort escorting a group of younger 4-H students around Riverside Day Use Area. He attributed cleanups, such as Rivers Alive, and volunteers, like those from Bartow County 4-H, for helping keep the local environment and wildlife habitats a safer place for people and animals.
“Environmental concerns are always present. We always want to keep it clean, especially in this area where we have a lot of wildlife. We’ve been picking up everything from dirty diapers to fishing line, which can get caught in birds feet and bills,” Purvis said. “And it’s a good experience for the kids. ... They learn while they’re here how long it takes for some of these things to deteriorate. Some of these diapers take many years, same thing for fishing line and plastics. Some of these things can be in the environment for 100 years.”
In addition to Thursday’s event, the Bartow County Environmental Management System and Keep Bartow Beautiful are teaming up with the Coosa River Basin Initiative and Keep Rome/Floyd Beautiful to begin a continuing effort to clean the Etowah River from Allatoona Dam to the river’s confluence with the Oostanala River in downtown Rome. Henshaw and partnering organizations hope to build on this year’s inaugural efforts in a fashion similar to the Great Lake Allatoona Cleanup held each year in September.
Along with efforts from CRBI, the Bartow County Environmental Management System is working Bartow County, the city of Cartersville and private land owners to improve access to the Etowah in Bartow County by adding boat launch sites. The project of improving access along recreational waterways is known as a blue trail and Henshaw sees a lot of potential in the Etowah Blue Trail and other forms of recreation in Bartow.
“We hope we’ll see a lot more activity and recreation on the river,” Henshaw said. “I’m excited about that opportunity, because the river is just so beautiful. I think Bartow County has a great future — with the amount of green space we have, with the lake, with the blue trail if it comes in, with all of our bike routes, with the opportunity for the park in Emerson — to be a place where people want to come to get outdoors. We’ve got hopes eventually of hiking trails from the lake all the way to Pine Log — and that’s exciting. It would mean jobs for Bartow, it would mean tourism. There are certain communities that are associated with outdoor recreation, like those in Oregon. So we’re hopeful that we can do more mountain biking trails, more horseback trails and just pull these things together so people will have ample opportunities to get outdoors.”
The collaborative Etowah River cleanup effort will be held Saturday, Oct. 20. For more information, call Keep Bartow Beautiful at 770-387-5167.