Volunteers gather at Prater’s Mill to cleanup Coahulla Creek with their kayaks
The 29th annual Conasauga River Watershed Cleanup saw a turnout of 219 volunteers from Dalton and the surrounding regions.
“It is heartening to experience dedicated and concerned volunteers amidst the heavy news in today’s world,” Carl Wilms, Park Creek Elementary gardener and facilitator, said about the turnout for the cleanup.
Organizers said, "Held in partnership with the United Way of Northwest Georgia's Make a Difference Day, this year's cleanup event proved to be a memorable one, filled with surprising discoveries, tireless efforts and a shared commitment to preserving the natural beauty of the Southeastern United States."
During the cleanup, hosted in October on the United Way of Northwest Georgia’s Make a Difference Day, volunteers went to various sites across three counties to help clean up the watershed which transports water from the land into tributary streams and the Conasauga River.
"By removing litter from this area, it can be cleared away before it is too broken down by weathering to collect or before it is washed down the river and into the ocean by the flow of water," organizers said.
Greatchen Lugthart, one of the cleanup organizers, said about her experience during the event, “It was amazing to see so many students participating in cleaning up their community. They got in the water, got dirty and found tires, buried carpet, car parts and bikes at our site. It’s sort of like a treasure hunt to see who can find the most unusual items. We had a good time and the weather was great.”
Some other surprising finds from this year included a bowling ball at Crown Creek, a wading pool in the Mill Creek Tributary, and a folding chair at the Dalton Recreation Center.
Together, volunteers cleaned up 6,538 pounds of trash and 36 tires.
"Taking care of the Conasauga River, which winds through Polk County in Tennessee and along the border of Whitfield and Murray counties, and its tributaries helps create a more beautiful community and supports a healthy environment for the wildlife dependent on the river," organizers said.
Discussing the impact of the cleanup, Stephen Bontekoe, executive director for Limestone Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council, said, “Reducing litter in the community not only improves the community aesthetic, but also improves water quality for wildlife, sport and drinking water.”
Sites included in this year’s event were the Conasauga River at Highway 2 bridge and the Lower Kings/Norton bridge.
Other cleanup sites included Holly Creek in Murray County, the snorkel hole in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and Coahulla Creek at Prater’s Mill. City of Dalton sites included Crown Creek, Lakeshore Park, Al Rollins Park, Park Creek Elementary School and a Mill Creek tributary. U.S. Forest Service employees from the Conasauga Ranger District cleaned up sites on Sumac and Rock Creeks on the Chattahoochee National Forest and Mohawk Industries employees cleaned up a small stream near the Dalton Recreation Center.
The event sponsors provided the funds needed to purchase cleanup supplies, commemorative fanny packs, hand sanitizer, patches and t-shirts. They also helped the group purchase ten copies of Casper Cox’s Snorkeling Hidden Rivers of Southern Appalachia to raffle out to volunteers. Event sponsors and organizers included Shaw Industries, Allchem, Engineered Floors, Dalton Utilities, North Georgia EMC, the Dalton Rotary Club, The Nature Conservancy, Rivers Alive, United Way of Northwest Georgia, Prater’s Mill Foundation, Dalton State College, Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority, Mohawk Industries, Whitfield County Public Works, Limestone Valley RC&D, U.S. Forest Service, Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful, Murray County and Whitfield County Extension and Keep Chatsworth-Murray Beautiful.
The amount of time donated by volunteers during this year’s event is valued at $20,892.
The Conasauga River Watershed Cleanup has long been a participant of the State of Georgia’s Rivers Alive, one of the South’s largest volunteer efforts to beautify water resources. So far in 2023, 6,831 volunteers have participated in 95 clean-up events throughout the state and have removed 233,745 pounds of garbage from 944 miles of Georgia waterways.
For more information about efforts in other areas or the statewide campaign, visit www.RiversAlive.org.