Big Sweep brushes up tons of trash

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
Raheem Gibby and Phillip Colvin, both freshmen at the Rowan County Early College, pulled a rusted refrigerator out of High Rock Lake Saturday morning.
The 14-year-old boys yanked the old icebox up a small hill to a flat spot where more trash was being gathered.
About 105 volunteers showed up Saturday for the annual Big Sweep ó an effort to clean up litter by the lake.
Mike Lambert, assistant naturalist with Dan Nicholas Park Nature Center, was thrilled with the volunteer turnout this year. It’s a big jump from the nine volunteers who helped out last year.
About 40 of the volunteers Saturday were from the Early College at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Students traveled to the cleanup site on a school system activity bus.
Gibby said he was happy to help remove the garbage ó mostly soda and beer bottles ó by the lake off File Road, where many people go to fish. He said he fishes there sometimes, most recently just a couple weeks ago.
“I noticed it was getting trashy out here,” Gibby said.
He enjoys the quiet spot. “I want it to be around for when I have kids so we can come out here fishing.”
Volunteers didn’t have a shortage of trash to pick up. They collected 190 bags of garbage that weighed about 3,800 pounds, Lambert said.
That compares with 73 bags and 1,620 pounds last year.
When a few people leave garbage behind, Lambert said, other people seem more willing to litter, too.
The point of the Big Sweep is that if fishermen and leisure-seekers aren’t surrounded by trash, they’ll make it a point to keep it that way, he said.
After about five minutes by the lake, 14-year-old Shaelyne Jones, also an Early College student, had filled about half of a large garbage bag.
“It’s really irresponsible,” Jones said of people who litter. “If you’re going to fish, you really should clean up your (trash).”
Bobbie Shultz, a parent of another Early College student, chimed in.
“You should have said, ‘I’d hate to see what their house looks like,’ ” she told Jones.
But Lambert advised some volunteers to refrain from telling fishermen at the lake Saturday morning to not litter.
“We’re not here to preach to anybody,” Lambert said.
Before the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay rained down on Rowan, Lambert said, some of the lake’s shore was exposed. The area was covered with litter.
“I saw all the trash, and I thought, ‘Man, I’m going to bring an army,’ ” he said.
But the rains raised the lake level, covering the shore and washing away that debris.
Volunteers picked up trash left behind on “the wall,” the area above the shore.
A Boy Scout group headed out on the lake in canoes to pick up floating trash.
At one point near the water, Lambert stopped and picked up an old piece of fishing line.
“This right here is a killer to wildlife,” he said.
The wire could get wrapped around a bird’s neck or foot.
Lambert said he’s interested in putting fishing-line receptacles near the lake, where fishermen could dispose of old lines. He also wants to put trash cans around.
The local Big Sweep is part of a statewide effort to clean up waterways. Cleanup events are scheduled for the first weekend of October across the state, but that weekend conflicts with the Autumn Jubilee at Dan Nicholas Park.
So the event here was held early.
Cindy Misenheimer, principal at Early College, said she hopes her students learned a valuable lesson Saturday.
“I’m hoping by doing this they’ll never throw anything down again,” she said.