Volunteers pick up litter, other debris from Happy Valley quarry

Published 10:32 am Tuesday, May 12, 2015

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A group of volunteers from East Tennessee State University spruced up the quarry along the Tweetsie Trail in the Happy Valley community Monday.

The cleanup was not an easy undertaking, though. More than a dozen trash bags filled with litter, along with traffic cones, railway ties and large logs, were pulled from the quarry using kayaks, rope and even a crane.

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Students and faculty with the Department of Geosciences and the Environmental Conservation Organization worked for hours to remove the litter and other debris that had collected over the years.

“It was disgusting when we got here,” student Sydney Lawson said. “There were so many bottles and random things floating in the quarry. We found so many propane bottles and even syringes. Litter is a real problem. It is an eyesore.”

To get to the quarry, volunteers hiked along the Tweetsie Trail with their kayaks. Once they were at the spot, a steep trail down the side of the mountain brought them level with the quarry, which used to be a functioning limestone mine.

Volunteers worked in teams to row out onto the quarry, collect the litter, bag it and then bring it back to shore. Once on land, other volunteers carried the cleanup items up the hillside, where they were loaded into trucks and hauled away.

The kayakers couldn’t remove some larger items, which instead were hoisted up the mountain to the trail using a crane the cleanup crew borrowed. In total, the crews removed 13 bags of trash, five traffic barrels and several railroad timbers. The litter items were separated into trash and recyclables.

Several of the items in the quarry had been floating there for a while, professor Ingrid Luffman said.

“Some of the items had their own ecosystems growing on them,” Luffman said. “There were bottles and pieces of styrofoam that had smaller plants starting to grow from them. The quarry was quite bad when we got here, but it is beautiful now.”

The cleanup likely will be a regular event for the college organizations.

“We hope we don’t have to come back for a while,” Luffman said.

The volunteers hope the cleanup will bring awareness to the issue of littering, especially along the area’s trails.

“People just litter and they think it goes away,” Carissa Leroy-Beaulieu said. “That is not what happens. When people litter, it washes down to other places, like the water supply and in quarries.”

The volunteers were pleased with the progress that was made in the quarry.

“It is so cool how just a few people made such a visible differences in such a short time,” Annie Bronez said. “It shows that small actions have a big impact.”