Satilla Riverkeeper cleans up 11 sites over 200 miles of river
Satilla Riverkeeper is proud to report that our river wide cleanup effort on Saturday, September 21 was a success. Volunteers came out to 11 sites stretched across over 200 miles of river, from the headwaters in Douglas (Coffee County) to the estuaries in Camden and Glynn Counties. About 130 volunteers came out at 9AM on Saturday morning. Volunteers picked up trash along the riverbanks for two hours before heading to Twin Oaks Bluegrass Park for a complimentary lunch provided by Chick-fil-a of Waycross and a celebration of all the hard work.
“Volunteering to give back to the community in any way is a vital part of improving a society,” said volunteer Cheston Bromell, resident of Glynn County who volunteered at the Turtle River site on Highway 99. “We all have an obligation, in my mind, to help to improve our area if we want a more beautiful and enriching place to live.”
This year, Satilla Riverkeeper introduced some friendly competitions between the 11 cleanup sites. The largest volunteer crew was led by the Pierce Chamber of Commerce at the public landing at Ga-121 between Blackshear and Hoboken. 65 volunteers covered ground on both sides of the river, pulling out everything from mattress springs to common litter items like bottles and cans. Students from Patterson Elementary and Pierce County Middle School contributed a lot of hard work and some optimism for the future.
Volunteers directed their attention to a small, but potent litter problem, the cigarette butt. The volunteers at the Woodbine Riverwalk tallied the most cigarette butts, at 186! Across all 11 cleanup sites, volunteers tallied 850 cigarette butts. Cigarette butts are the most commonly littered item in the nation. Contrary to common belief, the butts are made of plastic and do not easily degrade in the environment. The butt also contains concentrated toxins filtered out of the smoke. These toxins leach out into the water body, harming fish and other wildlife.
There were several unusual items picked up during the cleanup this year. Keeley Rhae Johnson, Alana Watkins, and Ashley Carter took home the people’s choice award for “weirdest find” for the tarot card, candle and $5 cash they found at the Ga-121 landing. A VHS tape found at Jamestown Landing was a close runner up.
Popular river access points along the Satilla River are known for their chronic trash problems. Trash negatively impacts the river’s water quality, the public’s recreational experience, wildlife, fishes, and eventually makes its way to the ocean impacting marine life as well. The Satilla Riverkeeper hopes that through continued cleanup efforts such as these we will help bring awareness to the issue.
“These cleanup efforts make such a huge impact in a single day,” said Laura Early, Satilla Riverkeeper. “In addition to removing the trash, we hope it also brings attention to the issue and gets us as a community thinking about long term solutions to prevent trash from getting to the river in the first place.”
A large portion of the items volunteers pick up are single-use disposable items such as plastic grocery bags, plastic beverage bottles, styrofoam cups, disposable forks, straws, etc. “Can we as a society and individuals change our habits to create less waste in the first place?” Early asks.
This event was conducted in partnership with Rivers Alive, Georgia's annual volunteer waterway cleanup event that targets all waterways in the State including streams, rivers, lakes, beaches, and wetlands. The mission of Rivers Alive is to create awareness of and involvement in the preservation of Georgia's water resources.
In addition to partnering with Rivers Alive, Satilla Riverkeeper would like to thank the following community partners that contributed to our efforts and helped make this event a success: Keep Golden Isles Beautiful, Friends of the Satilla River; Keep Brantley Beautiful and Litter Free; Pierce County Chamber of Commerce; South Georgia Regional Commission; Republic Services; Advanced Disposal; Local Waste Services; American Rivers; Chick-fil-a Waycross; Twin Oaks Bluegrass Park; Yarbrough’s Printing; Seven Rivers; Lee Hardware, Waycross; Frosty Freeze, Nahunta; Earth Inspired Kids; Kingfisher Paddleventures; and Blackshear Church of God.
Satilla Riverkeeper is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 2004 whose mission is to protect, restore and educate about the unique and beautiful black-water Satilla River. To learn more about our work, visit www.satillariverkeeper.org