Big Sweep: Volunteers help with annual cleanup at High Rock
By Noelle Edwards
A group of high school students worked through a natural obstacle course of driftwood, foliage and puddles Saturday morning, picking up debris along the shore of High Rock Lake and trying not to slip on the logs.
“If anybody wants a flip-flop or something, I found a bunch of them,” Dylan Auten, one of the teens, called out.
The students, from the Rowan County Sheriff Department’s Explorers Post, were part of a larger clean-up crew working at the lake Saturday morning.
The effort was Rowan County’s contribution to the annual statewide Big Sweep program, which encourages waterway cleanups.
Ten groups, totalling 140 people, stationed along the lake’s shore at public access points, picking up old tires, bottles, bits of plastic and tennis balls.
There were also more rare finds, such as the butt of a gun, fishing equipment and a child’s play refrigerator.
“I been looking for that for 12 years,” Chad Barringer, one of the Explorer students, joked.
“We found some pretty interesting stuff,” David Brady, a volunteer, said.
Perhaps the most rare find was a kitten ó alive but tangled in fishing wire. The volunteers who found it recruited someone fishing nearby to cut the line so they could set the kitten free to join its mother, waiting in the bushes.
The statewide event is officially Oct. 3, but that day is part of Autumn Jubilee, and Dan Nicholas Park will be overflowing with people ó not the best time to rally crowds of volunteers to rid the lake of litter.
The Big Sweep started as a coastal cleanup, but now the nonprofit organization focuses on cleaning up all kinds of environments.
Mike Lambert, assistant naturalist at the Dan Nicholas Park nature center and coordinator of Saturday’s event, said the cleanup in this area targets the lake because it’s the primary body of water in Rowan County.
“High Rock Lake is what we’ve agreed to be a steward of,” he said. He said if people use the lake for recreation, they should also be willing to pitch in and help clean it up.
He said six months of planning went into the event, which kicked off at Dan Nicholas Park.
The county provided gloves, trash bags, transportation and dumpsters to collect the trash.
Last year 109 people collected 190 bags of trash.
This year, the total was 207 bags, 5,380 pounds of trash total ó not collected without challenge.
“I’m eco friendly and all, but when the eco might bite me, the eco can just be trashy,” Dalton Burlison, who was part of the Explorers group, said.
At another point, Barringer jumped away from where he was collecting trash and yelled, “All right, that was a tarantula.”
But in the end, the group collected so much trash the eight students and five adults could barely fit back on two boats to deliver it to the dumpster.
Barringer said as they finishsed up, “Nothing more fun than picking up trash ó left by other people.”