Volunteers set to take to the lake for scenery’s sake
Watauga Lake has gained a reputation as a clean, beautiful waterway, and volunteers are working to make sure that’s the way it stays.
Volunteers with Our Community Gives Back will be hitting the waterways and the shores of Watauga Lake on Saturday, July 19, for their annual lake cleanup. and are calling on the public to help out.
The cleanup will begin at 9 a.m. with registration and will last until around 2 p.m., when volunteers will be treated to a celebration picnic.
Mary Salter, president of Our Community Gives Back, started the cleanup five years ago to remove litter and trash from the shoreline of the lake and the surface of the water.
“I saw the need for the lake cleanup,” Salter said. “Watauga Lake is a source of pride for this community and year after year, the community has gotten behind the cleanup 100 percent. All that live here and visit here want to see the lake clean and beautiful, and the cleanup is an important way we can ensure it stays just that way.”
Salter said it was common for trash to accumulate along the edges of the coves. She said some of the trash has washed downstream from creeks and streams that feed into the lake. Other instances are what she calls “man-made trash” where individuals have dumped the items into the lake.
“We have recovered furniture, refrigerators and oxygen tanks,” she said. “This is not something that has washed out of the streams. One year, we found a boat that had been stripped of the serial numbers and had been shot full of bullet holes so that it would sink. It is disheartening to find those types of man-made trash. It is unfortunate that some use the lake as a dumping ground.”
While the event has continued to draw support from the community, Salter noted that more volunteers were needed to extend the cleaning farther in the lake.
“We would like to see this grow much larger,” Salter said. “There is not as much support for this cleanup are there is for other lake cleanups in the area, like the one at Boone Lake. There are not as many lake front homes along Watauga Lake as there are on Boone Lake, so there are fewer homeowners who get involved in the cleanup. We would like to see more citizens involved.”
There is no age limit for volunteers. Salter said children are welcome as long as they are accompanied by an adult.
“The cleanup is a great way to teach the importance of keeping our lakes and streams clean,” she said. “Watauga Lake is the third-cleanest lake in the country. We want to keep it that way.”
Salter said the Sierra Club, the Watauga Watershed Alliance, local ecology groups and hiking clubs were some of the main supporters of the cleanup. She added this is the last year that Our Community Gives Back will host the cleanup. Next year, the Sierra Club will take over the event.
Salter said the goal of the cleanup is to cover as much of the lake as possible. She said because Watauga Lake spans two counties – Carter and Johnson – volunteers will work in the areas they are most familiar.
“Residents in each county know where the issues are,” she said. “The lake is so expansive that the volunteers go to work in the areas they know need the focus.”
Registration will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Fish Springs Marina in Hampton and Sink Mountain Boat Ramp in Butler. Gloves and bags will be supplied at registration locations. Volunteers can also bring their personal boats to use in the cleanup.
“Everything will be provided,” Salter said. “We just need people who are willing to work, willing to have fun and willing to protect our natural resources. We have people on boats, jet skis, kayaks and on the shore.”
During the picnic lunch, entertainment will be provided by local band Forge Creek.
For information, to volunteer or donate, call Salter at 768-0363. The cleanup also has a Facebook page at facebook.com/wataugalakecleanup.