"Keep Georgia Beautiful has actually got a new program out and it's about recycling plastic bags and you would be surprised that most, if not all, of our retailers actually have receptacles for all those plastic bags that we take home," said Missy Phillips, acting director for Bartow County Government Office of Environmental Programs, which coordinates Keep Bartow Beautiful. "So we're not exactly saying don't use these bags. We're saying recycle these bags.
"If you use plastic bags, please remember to recycle them because if you don't, you will create a Bag Monster and these bags cannot only become litter and make our community look trashy but they're also very capable of stopping up waterways and culverts and those kinds of things. I'll be giving out recyclable bags also at the same time so that people can reduce the number of plastic bags that they use by collecting these recyclable bags. And we're happy to be able to give these patrons of the Environmental Preserve a chance to do that with these bags."
Along with Keep Bartow Beautiful, representatives of the Bartow County Master Gardeners and the city of Cartersville's recycling program also will participate in the Preserve's free event, held prior to Sunday's Earth Day, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"We just didn't see that there was a lot going on to recognize Earth Day in the area and the Preserve seems a natural fit to raise awareness about Earth Day and issues related to the Earth and its stewardship," said Marina Robertson, executive director for the Preserve. "So we actually approached Keep Bartow Beautiful early on and she was thrilled to be a part of it -- Missy Phillips at KBB. ... So that's why we're partnering with her and then, of course, the Master Gardeners have been our partner for several years now in helping us with our composting project and they will be there.
"And it seemed especially auspicious given that the city of Cartersville just started their curbside recycling program. They will have Jim Morgan with the city of Cartersville [at the event]. He's overseeing the program and he's got very exciting figures. They're almost to their goal of the number of participants citywide for the program and in a fairly short period of time. It only rolled out in February and they're almost all the way to their goal of 30 percent of utility customers."
By attending the Preserve's offering, Robertson hopes people will see the benefits of recycling and start implementing environmentally friendly practices in their daily routines.
"From an environmental perspective here at the Preserve, of course, that's something we see every day that there are ways that we can lessen our impact on the Earth that will make things better for all of us," Robertson said. "But there's also some very savvy financial and business reasons, and I think that's one of the reasons why the city of Cartersville has been interested in the recycling because by recycling they can take trash out of the dump, which reduces their trash fees, and eventually [it] will lead to income from recycling.
"Now as citizens, that's important because guess who pays to expand the dump? That would be us. So the less we put in there, the longer it will last and the lower our taxes are. So it's very simple. Anything we can do to get some of our trash out of the trash stream, it also keeps it out of the environment. Because if people are focused on recycling, they're less likely to throw things on the side of the road, which then ends up harming our waterways and various flora and fauna. The money we have to spend cleaning up after these things, it only gets bigger and we as taxpayers pay that."
Situated off Ga. Highway 61 in southwest Bartow County, the Preserve consists of trails developed by Cartersville's Switchbacks Trail Design & Construction, a swinging bridge, a 9-acre lake, two aquatic stations, three amphitheaters and a Learning Shed.
With the 70-acre forest and lake ecosystem primarily accessed by appointment only, Saturday's event will provide the public a free glimpse into the Preserve. Along with the Earth Day-related activities, the offering also will feature self-led and interpretive hikes conducted by Preserve Educator Lori Jewell.
The venue was formed as a private, nonprofit corporation -- The Margaret and Luke Pettit Environmental Preserve Inc. -- in 1999 when the late Gay Pettit Dellinger and her children initially donated 60 acres of property to this endeavor. Tailoring educational programs, such as tree identification and water testing, to youth groups, the venue has served about 5,000 students since 2006.
"I think for a lot of people, when they come out to the Preserve, it's a real blast from the past of what Bartow County used to be like because it's so untouched," Robertson said. "It gets us to a place where we can understand a little bit more about what our impact on the environment is.
"Not that we should never develop. But if we know what's happening and can be intentional about what we want to preserve, I think that will make a better environment for all of us -- both on the environment side and focusing on green space and other quality-of-life issues as well as the absolute preserve, don't touch anything, because that's part of quality of life too."
For more information about the Preserve and its upcoming event, visit www.pettitpreserve.org or contact Robertson at 678-848-4179.