Clean-Up Magic

By Hallie Zeedik on July 21, 2017.

As Trails Coordinator for the Town of Lake Lure, one of my responsibilities it to organize and lead river clean-ups in Rutherford County.  Coordinating the clean-ups is usually a big task. I make sure all the volunteers have boats, assign volunteers to different sections, coordinate the right number of people and mixture of canoes and kayaks on each section, manage last minute sign ups and cancellations, and make sure everyone gets to the right place at the right time. It can be a bit challenging. But once it is time to put boats in the water, everything changes.

I arrive extra early at the designated location to be sure I’m the first one there, but it never fails that someone else is extra early as well.  I get all of my things ready for the day and stand in the parking lot with my sun hat on and a clip board in my hand. One by one, vehicles with canoes and kayaks strapped to the top arrive, and eager volunteers jump out dressed in board shorts and water shoes.  Some volunteers help others unload their boats, and others clean trash from the parking lot. The volunteers already know what to do, and I don’t have to say much other than “Welcome”, and “Please sign in”. Once everyone has arrived and unloaded we shuttle cars to the take out location, and head back to our boats to get on the water.

There is always something magical in the air on a clean-up day, whether it be on the river or a trail. The purpose of the day is to remove debris.  In the back of your mind you know it is going to get nasty and maybe smelly, but there is a sense of pride and fulfillment knowing the positive impact you are about to make for the Earth and future visitors.

As we float along the river, volunteers keep a keen eye out for anything that does not belong. Beer cans and liquor bottles nestled in the river bed. A metal sign caught up on the bank. We help each other pull out tires. Steady the boat while someone pulls a trash bag from a tree. It is truly a group effort. Slowly the boats fill up to the point that it becomes hard to paddle. We show off our biggest finds, and marvel at the collection we have gathered. 

When we finally reach the end, everyone helps each other pull their boats filled with new treasures out of the water. We put everything in a big pile and gather for the group photo, the certificate of accomplishment that might get us in the local paper. We pile our findings into a trailer on which are taken away to their proper resting grounds. We help load boats back on their respective vehicles, thank each other for their help, and head off in the direction from which we arrived thinking, “It was a good day.”