Volunteers needed for river cleanup Sept. 11

At last year’s Little Tennessee River Cleanup, Tara Black and her son, Taran, collected quite a pile of trash out of the river from their inflatable raft. This year’s cleanup is set for Saturday, Sept. 11. Volunteers are asked to report to the Mainspring office at 557 East Main Street for supplies and assignments either the week before, or between 9 and 10 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 11.

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

Chris Thornton paddles a boatload full of trash collected from the 2020 Little Tennessee River Cleanup.

While many people will be observing the 20th anniversary of 9/11, volunteers throughout the community will come together on that day to clean trash from the Little Tennessee River. Hosted by Mainspring Conservation Trust, the annual Little Tennessee River Cleanup, Saturday, Sept. 11, will involve volunteers assigned to a variety of litter zones. Each volunteer will work from the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. time slot, depending on their individual schedule that day.

Mainspring volunteer Guy Gooder has been organizing this event for 16 years and spends considerable time scouting locations most in need of litter removal along the Little Tennessee and its tributaries. Gooder assigns locations to volunteers based on their ages and comfort levels.

“I hate litter like most people,” said Gooder. “And I love to paddleboard and kayak, so when I looked down and saw cans and tires, I decided I wanted to be involved in cleanup efforts.”

In order to encourage social distancing, Mainspring staff and other coordinators will have supplies, such as bags, gloves and grabbers, available for pickup at Mainspring’s office on 557 East Main Street either throughout the week prior to the event, or from 9-10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, on the Mainspring property across the street from its office. A dumpster will be on that site for trash to be loaded. In addition, a list of both roadside and vessel cleanup locations will be identified so that helpers can choose to work on floodplain land, along the riverbanks, or in the water itself. Plus, canoes, boats, and paddleboats are needed for trash removal in the water.

Gooder added, “We can make our beautiful rivers look undisturbed and save wildlife. Trash kills ducks, turtles, and fish from entanglements. It’s great to be stewards of our watershed.” 

Gooder said he will be thankful for anyone who shows up to help with the Tennessee River Cleanup. 

Volunteers can also contact Rachel Newcomb, Mainspring’s conservation outreach associate, at 524-2711, extension 305, to notify Mainspring of their intent to pick up trash on their own.

“This cleanup is significant to Mainspring and the Franklin community at large because this is the one time we collectively assemble volunteers to protect this natural resource from the littering that has occurred over the previous year. Microplastics, which are small fragments from larger plastics that have broken down, end up in our streams and threaten the health of our waterways,” said Newcomb.

Dedicated to saving nationally significant places in the Southern Blue Ridge, Mainspring Conservation Trust serves the six western-most counties in North Carolina and northern Rabun County, Ga. For more information, visit www.mainspringconserves.org.