Volunteers bag up debris during Big Sweep

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2011

By David Freeze
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — Zach Oster is a 15-year-old sophomore at the Rowan-Cabarrus Early College. He passed up a chance to be elsewhere Saturday to join his schoolmates at Rowan County’s Big Sweep 2011.
Oster and about 25 other students joined school administrators as they picked up trash on the banks of High Rock Lake.
“This is our duty to the world. It makes me mad how people just leave trash,” Oster said.
That was just the point that Mike Lambert, local organizer for the Big Sweep, wanted to make. Lambert is a Naturalist at Dan Nicholas Park and the Big Sweep coordinator.
“People should leave the environment the way they find it. Litter in any form causes lots of problems. These kids are our future leaders. We want them to see what is happening here,” Lambert said.
This is the 25th anniversary of the Big Sweep Cleanup statewide. Rowan County started participating about 1990. Locally the event focuses on N.C. Wildlife Public Access areas. The Rowan-Cabarrus Early College group worked in the area off File Road near Dan Nicholas Park. Scout Troop 448 took to canoes to collect trash along the South Yadkin River.
Many of the students look forward to the Big Sweep each year. Principal Cindy Misenheimer and Dean of Students Jeff Kitchen worked right along with them.
Misenheimer organized the students and instructed them to keep up with what they were finding. They were told to wear gloves and fill trash bags. Those bags would be collected by the park staff and later weighed.
She also told them to stay out of the water and work in small groups.
“We want the kids to know that it is all about giving back. You can’t always take,” Misenheimer said.
Her students work at various other community projects throughout the year.
Wini Wang is a senior and vice president of student government. She has been working the Big Sweep each year since she was a freshman.
“We look forward to this event, and we talk about it all the time. We talk about living our life in service to others. This work provides a great sense of fulfillment,” Wang said.
She remembers finding a cat, still alive but tangled in fish line. Fishing line is dangerous also to wildlife and attracts other predators when a smaller animal is trapped.
Other items found by Wang’s group over the years included a refrigerator and syringes.
Many of the students took part for the first time.
“It is my way to help animals. I just didn’t realize that there would be this much trash. I enjoy doing this while being with my friends,” sophomore Heather Morgan said.
Her group found various baits, shoes, socks, underwear and tent pegs, along with large volumes of left behind trash. Other groups found a shop vac and the back of a TV set.
Boy Scout Troop 448 loaded a canoe and a motorboat with trash.
They started at the U.S. 601 bridge put-in point, and worked their way south on the Yadkin.
Trash loaded the boats so much that Scout Ryan Leonard called them “New York City trash barges.”
Troop 448 is from Coburn Memorial United Methodist Church in Salisbury. Scoutmaster is Alfred Wilson and he is assisted by Paul Canup.
Trash pickup volume for the Big Sweep and a separate event at Eagle Point Reserve totaled 160 bags and 3,840 pounds.
Included were 29 tires. Sixty total volunteers performed the work at three separate sites.
Not all the trash belongs to locals, according to Bob Pendergrass, Dan Nicholas Park Nature Center supervisor.
“Some of it has washed down the Yadkin River. We once found a sign from the Ararat River, a tributary of the Yadkin in southwestern Virginia and northwestern North Carolina,” he said. “The issue is with the way that users of the wildlife sites leave the land. It is a shame that people don’t appreciate what they have. We encourage people to fish and hunt, but please be responsible. Carry out your own trash.”
N.C. Big Sweep is a non-profit organization that works year round to educate citizens for a litter-free environment. Find out more at ncbigsweep.org