The Chattahoochee River serves many functions, including a source of the metro area’s water supply and a popular recreation area. And as Tammy Bates will tell you, it’s also a trash dump.
As the outings manager for the nonprofit organization, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Bates has been in charge of orchestrating an annual event devoted solely to getting the crud out of the water and off the riverbanks. This is the third year she’s spearheaded “Sweep the Hooch,” a joint effort with the Riverkeeper, the Upper Chattahoochee Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the National Park Service.
As happened last year, Bates expects about 600 volunteers to haul off about four tons of debris next Saturday.
“We find lots of bottles, aluminum cans, plastic bags, tires, bicycles - even a kitchen sink once,” said Bates. “And we find hundreds of balls - soccer balls, tennis balls, all kinds that we try to clean up and donate if they’re in good condition.”
A total of 24 clean-up sites are designated along the 48-mile waterway from Buford Dam to Paces Mill Road in Cobb. This year, a new site has been added to the Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County, where local residents asked to be part of the clean-up effort.
“We certainly love to see this growing beyond just the park boundaries,” said Bates.
Volunteers will be paddling in the shallows, walking along the banks and wading into the water to retrieve debris. The only skill required to participate, said Bates, is the ability to lift a heavy, wet trash bag.
“We have gloves and water on site, but volunteers are welcome to bring their own,” she added. “They should also wear long pants and safety shoes because they’ll be out there in the woods.”
Each site will have designated team leaders to oversee the collection and to guide volunteers through the process. Along the way, those who pitch in are liable to get some unusual insight into the abuse the river takes every day.
“A clean-up like this really raises awareness and understanding of what the Chattahoochee means,” said Bates. “It gives people a new awareness of how important it is to protect our water resources. If people don’t have a clue about that before they do this, they certainly will have one when they leave.”
Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 404-514-6162.
“Sweep the Hooch,” a joint effort with the Riverkeeper, the Upper Chattahoochee Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the National Park Service to clean up the Chattahoochee River and the areas around it will take place 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 13.
Participants are required to register in advance to ensure a complete roster of volunteers at each location. For details, visit www.chattahoochee.org or www.sweepthehooch.org; 404-352-9828.