Rescuing Georgia's Rivers

Volunteers at the Coosa River Cleanup

Rome’s rivers and waterways in Georgia are home to an amazing variety of aquatic life, plants, insects, birds and other wildlife. They offer locals and visitors a wide range of activities, from boating and kayaking to fishing and paddle-boarding.

But local rivers and waterways are also home to garbage of all types that has been thrown there, often intentionally.

The Coosa River Basin Initiative’s Etowah River Cleansweep did something about that this fall. On Sept. 17, Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI) staff and more than 100 volunteers got down and dirty, cleaning up more than 2,600 pounds of trash across approximately 50 miles of two rivers in one day. And they couldn’t have done it without help from the community.

“Our goal was to clean every mile of the river from Allatoona Dam to Lock and Dam,” said Joe Cook, advocacy and communication coordinator for CRBI. “That’s basically trying to clean up 55 miles of river in one day. We managed to clean up about 50 miles of the Etowah and Coosa rivers as well as Silver Creek and the Kingfisher Trail.”

They managed all that because seven different groups of local and area residents pitched in. Keep America Beautiful affiliates Keep Bartow Beautiful and Keep Rome-Floyd County Beautiful helped by providing dumpsters and picked up the trash after it had been cleaned from the river.

“We also have been doing a lot of work on the Etowah River Water Trail,” said Sheri Henshaw, director of Keep Bartow Beautiful. Henshaw added that she often works with Keep Rome/Floyd Beautiful’s Mary Hardin Thornton on various river cleanups in their region, including the Georgia Rivers Alive cleanups. “Mary even has an eco-center in Rome that was created from an old water plant that educates hundreds of students annually, so you can see we are both river rats.”

The project also got help from Euharlee Creek Outfitters and Cedar Creek RV and Outdoor Center provided boats for volunteers to get on the water and retrieve trash.

Unity Christian School’s Kristie Birdsong said she and her students learned a lot about the local environment during the cleanup.

“Living in the United States, we take for granted being able to have clean drinking water and being able to play in lakes and rivers without considering the effects of pollution,” Birdsong said. “I believe by having my students take part in an activity close to home allows them to relate some of what we’re learning in the classroom to everyday life for us even in Rome. My goal is for students to become aware and active members of our community.”