Volunteers clean Chattahoochee at state park
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Volunteers pulled 560 pounds of trash out of the Chattahoochee River at Chattahoochee Bend State Park on Saturday, one of more than 200 clean- up events in the state that were part of Rivers Alive 2013.
There were 28 volunteers at Saturday's event. Most worked from canoes or kayaks, with two cleaning from the bank.
There have been several cleanups held along the park's river frontage in the past few years, and a lot of the larger debris has been removed. There were no shopping carts or refrigerators this time but there were lots of balls, a set of wooden steps, and a muddy Cabbage Patch doll.
Because of heavy growth along the banks and high water levels there hasn’t been many opportunities for shoreside cleanup.
There were plenty of volunteers for the event, said Steve St. Laurent, president of the Friends of Chattahoochee Bend State Park.
But he's hoping for greater community involvement in the next few months as the friends group begins building new trails for the first time in a year-and-a-half.
The next major event at the park will be held on Sept. 28. It's a major volunteer day, as well as being "Your State Parks Day" throughout the state. Admission is free to state parks on that day.
Those cleaning the river Saturday included locals as well as volunteers who heard about the cleanup on meetup.com.
Ben Butler, Gillian Kaye and Gabriel Gomar came from Decatur and Gainesville for the cleanup. Gomar read about the cleanup on the meetup.com page and brought some friends.
"I thought it was a lot of fun," said Kaye. "We're definitely coming back."
Melanie Thrasher and Susan Meals were camping at Chattahoochee Bend when they heard about the cleanup. They were at the park to check out new kayaking spots, and decided to participate in the cleanup. "We're very much into conservation, so this worked out perfectly," Thrasher said.
They weren't able to get as much trash as they would have liked because the water was high, and it was moving quickly.
The high river levels also covered up a lot of the trash.
Saturday was Anne Jensen's second river cleanup. "It was a pretty day. It was a lot of fun to be on the water," she said.
There were no accidents, said Archie Davis. "Safety is more important than all the trash in the river," he said. "Safety is number one. Trash is a bonus." And there was "quite a lot of it for the river to be up this high."
There has been a lot of "resource management" work going on at the park lately, said Park Manager Tim Banks, and the river cleanup is a great complement to that.
There has been work on replacing invasive plant species with natives.
Two weeks ago, Boy Scouts participated in an eagle project to place duck nesting boxes in the 35 acre wetland area. Owl boxes have also been hung, as have some bat boxes.
Coweta Fayette EMC donated poles for the bat boxes, Banks said. The boxes can hold up to 100 bats, and hopes are to have a very healthy bat population. A bat can eat twice its weight in insects every night. Thanks to the bats, "we hope to be fairly mosquito-free in a few years," Banks said.
For more information on the Friends of Chattahoochee Bend, visit www.BendFriend.com. For more information on Chattahoochee Bend State Park, visit www.GaStateParks.org/Chattahoochee Bend or call 770-254-7271.