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Community comes together for river cleanup

Saturday morning, in spite of cold weather, Bainbridge residents came together at the Earle May Boat Basin for the 11th annual Rivers Alive Cleanup Project.

The project is headed by Suzanne Brandt, executive director of Keep Decatur County Beautiful. The event is also sponsored by Georgia Adopt-A-Stream, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division, Keep Georgia Beautiful, and Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The cleanup had a large turnout of 22 groups including the following: Morningside Baptist Church, First Christian Church, Bainbridge Public Safety, Decatur County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Performance Learning Center, NAACP Youth Council, Bainbridge High School Junior ROTC, Department of Juvenile Justice community workers, Boy Scout Troop No. 502, and the Kiwanis, Anchor, Rotary and Key Clubs. In addition to the groups, several families and individuals helped out.

Two of the groups—the Sheriff’s Office and the First Christian Church—had boats to take out on the Flint River.

The groups were all assigned different areas to clean including the landing at Horseshoe Bend Road, which was covered by the Kiwanis; Pineview Cemetery, covered by NAACP Youth Council; and the Calhoun Street Bridge, covered by the Performance Learning Center, which was volunteering for the first time.

The Christian Church group, who was volunteering for the third year in a row, split up to cover two areas, the river and the Boulevard Street Park. At the park, the group reported finding lots of torn plastic grocery bags, cigarette butts, plastic drink bottles and cans and a tire iron. They also found discarded clothing, shoe inserts, and a bread carrier.

Mike Pelton and Dale Brock were another team working at the Boulevard Park. They took a canoe into the pond and collected around eight bags of trash by themselves.

Col. Gary Breedlove, sponsor of the JROTC, said his group had been participating in the cleanup since it began. They arrived at 7:45 that morning and worked around the banks of the Flint River until 11. Breedlove stated there seemed to be less trash than in previous years, but there was still plenty to pick up. He said the majority of their trash seemed to be discarded beer bottles. They found such other items as a chair seat, a small animal skull, a reclining chair mechanism, and an intact turtle shell.

In previous years, Breedlove says his group has found things like a safe, a dishwasher and a small boat.

Brandt listed some of the most unusual items found that day as a Barbie car seat, an MP3 player and a Florida Redbelly snake.

“Even though it was cold, everyone seemed to be very positive and excited about the cleanup,” Brandt stated.

Most of the trash is still out at the sites waiting to be picked up later this week. Unfortunately, the river was quite high and some areas usually covered in the cleanup were inaccessible.

Brandt said she informed most of the groups that she would get in contact with them in a few months when the river goes down to do a “mini cleanup.”

Brandt agreed with Breedlove in saying there was less trash to be picked up this year than in previous years. She accredits this to the county and city governments utilizing the inmate detail and to the citizens for being more mindful of where they discard their garbage.

She also said that around the community, there were groups of unknown citizens who had taken responsibility for cleaning up and maintaining areas. This small effort helps to keep cleanup events like Rivers Alive from becoming too grand scale for the citizens to handle.

There was an estimated two tons of garbage picked up at Rivers Alive 2009, and around 325 volunteers.

Brandt hopes that the turnout for the cleanup effort will be even larger next year.