Of the 11 statewide awards handed out by Rivers Alive this year, two went to Bartow County clubs for ongoing projects completed each year with continued success. Cartersville High School Beta Club took the Georgia School award for lake and river cleanups held for several years in a row and Bartow County 4-H was awarded the Rivers Alive 4-H award for a river cleanup project that has spanned nearly a decade.
“I think part of the reason we won is because we’ve done this several years running,” said CHS Beta Club sponsor Beth Cauthen. “But this is a popular project because the kids love being outside and traipsing through the mud.
“And it’s not just that they pick up trash, but it’s always amazing to me, they say, ‘Oh my gosh, why do people do this?’ So we talk about that. When you’re on the lake or the river, don’t just throw out your water bottle or your drink can or your bait container. ... Usually someone in the group points out on their own, it’s not just detrimental because it looks bad, but it’s detrimental to the wildlife. So much of the things they pick up could be harmful to wildlife.”
The Beta Club cleanup events began with former CHS student Savannah Andersen and have continued under the leadership of her brother, graduating senior Jacob Andersen. Originally, the cleanup was held at Floyd’s Landing on the Etowah River, but then moved to annual events on Lake Allatoona. Students now clean shoreline each fall when the water is down and have found litter, tires and an illegal dumping site where someone had thrown roofing construction material into the lake.
Since at least 2004, Bartow County 4-H has hosted a cleanup along the Etowah River at Riverside Day Use Area, Cooper’s Furnace Day Use Area and other areas of the river just past Allatoona Dam. Each year, the University of Georgia Extension youth program coordinates with Bartow County Environmental Programs and Keep Bartow Beautiful for the cleanup.
“It’s fantastic. We’re just thrilled because they are great partners,” said Bartow County Environmental Program Director Sheri Henshaw. “We work with so many people in the community and they are definitely at the top of my list for people I enjoy working with. They are so dedicated, they have influenced the youth in this community so much and they have done so much all around the community to take care of our resources. Young people that work through the 4-H program are much more aware of natural systems than most young people are.
“It’s been a great education effort to talk to the kids about litter, non-point source pollution, water quality, clean drinking water and how we protect wildlife through clean water. We incorporate a lot of educational items through that program. It has always been a winner for us and now the state thinks it is too.”
Collecting more than 1,000 pounds every year, the 4-H Rivers Alive Cleanup brings together more than 100 volunteers, including students, parents and area resource management personnel, such as Bartow County and city of Cartersville code enforcement officers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park rangers and Georgia Department of Natural Resources conservation rangers. The cleanup is held each fall during the week on a Bartow County Schools teacher work day.
“People always say, ‘What can one person do?’ And one person can make a big difference and as a group you can make an even bigger difference,” Bartow County 4-H Program Associate Kim Payne said. “Our kids work hard to give back to Bartow County. They give their day off of school to clean up the parks and rivers. So to be recognized for their hard work means a lot.“Community service can be fun, that’s one thing we try to show them. It doesn’t have to be boring. Community service and giving back can be fun and when they leave, they have a better awareness of why they should keep their parks clean and how it affects Bartow County and downstream and that just one person can make a difference. They leave knowing that it doesn’t have to be a major production, they can just go out themselves with a garbage bag and help clean up.”
In future years, the 4-H Rivers Alive Cleanup will help make up a much larger cleanup focusing regional efforts on the Etowah River Basin in a project to be known as Etowah Clean Sweep.