Citizens raise concerns over trash management at Blevins Boat Ramp

Published 5:10 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Carter County citizens Jim McGee and Steve Bailey have a simple question that they have been asking for roughly ten years.

And that question is, “Who is going to pick up the trash at the Blevins Boat Ramp in Carter County?”

The ramp, which is owned and maintained by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, serves as an access point to the Watauga River and is a major draw for rafters and fishers from all over.

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Currently, at the site, there are five 50-gallon trash bins that contain 30-gallon contractor trash bags. Last Friday, both McGee and Bailey were at the ramp where the trash bins, which according to McGee, hadn’t been emptied in roughly three weeks and were overflowing with trash.

“For ten years or more, we have been trying to get something worked out to get the trash picked up on a regular basis,” said McGee. “All this property that we are looking at right now is own by the TWRA.”

The property is one of the hundreds of water access points that the TWRA maintains in East Tennessee. The trash bins, however, are not TWRA property according to  Tommy Whitehead, a supervisor over the TWRA Recreational Facilities and Services.

Whitehead said since the Blevins Boat Ramp is not classified as a recreational area and is just considered a boat-access point, then the TWRA wouldn’t place bins at the site and wouldn’t do regular pickups due to guidelines.

“The Blevins Boat Ramp is maybe one of three that actually have trash cans or receptacles,” said Whitehead. “The other two sites have agreements with the city or user-groups that help maintain them. The reason we don’t have  them at the other sites is that we are just not able to maintain them on a regular basis.”

The trash bins at the Blevins Boat Ramp were put there by Bailey and Johnson City resident Charlie Mitchell, according to McGee. Currently, the emptying of the trash bins is done on an entirely volunteer basis, and over the years, Mitchell has played a big part in the effort to keep the Blevins Boat Ramp area clean of trash, said McGee. McGee also said that Benny Lyons, manager at the Carter County Landfill, has also helped with pick up. According to McGee, clearing the bins can be a tough task especially when rainwater fills the bottom of the trash bags.

“Benny and his people had long rubber gloves and had to unload them with their hands because they were so full and heavy,” said McGee.

McGee, Bailey, and others have also reached out to Carter County officials in hopes of setting up arrangements for getting the bins emptied on a regular basis.

“We have asked everybody in Carter County to help us, but nobody wants to come forward with it and tell us something,” said Bailey.

This past Friday, McGee got in touch with Whitehead who recommended that the trash bins be taken down since people, who are not even at the boat ramp to use the facility, are more likely to pull in and empty their vehicles of trash. McGee said that he will see that all of the bins expect one are removed from the site, but also said he feels it is a mistake to take the trash receptacles down.

“I just don’t agree with taking them down,” said McGee. “We are going to have a lot of litter that is going to end up in the river. I think it is a major mistake as far as trash control.”