With cold temperatures and sharp winds to contend with, volunteers with the Lake Martin Resource Association gathered at Wind Creek State Park early Friday morning for the 15 th annual Renew Our Rivers cleanup at Lake Martin.
"Without these volunteers, we could not do this," LMRA president John Thompson said. "There is no way we could do this without the partnership with Wind Creek State Park, Tow Boat US, and Lake Martin Dock Company. They are the ones who really get the big trash off the lake. We can bag it, we can stage it, but we can't move it without these guys."
LMRA has been collecting and removing trash and debris from Lake martin for many years now.
"Last year, we collected 22 tons, this year, we probably won't get quite that much, but it will be somewhere in that neighborhood,” Thompson said, “probably 18 to 19 tons would be my guess."
LMRA also furnished receptacles at Kowaliga boat ramp and Union boat ramp.
This year’s cleanup actually began months ago when volunteers began bagging trash along the
Tonya Holland and her family have spent much of their time over the past two months bagging debris that has collected along Lake Martin's shorelines. This year, volunteers bagged upwards of 450 bags of trash.
"I think it might be a tad more," Holland said. "We lost count at 450."
The group started cleaning the shorelines back in August. Holland said she and her family make the best of their time cleaning the shorelines of Lake Martin.
"We see who can find the most lighters or fishing lures," she said. "We just have fun. It's fun."
Holland said it's the lake's beauty that draws her to it and seeing that firsthand is worth more than anything money could ever buy.
"We get to see things that are unbelievable," she said. "Down by Camp ASCCA, we saw two eagles there, and there's a big nest near our land that we watch. We have an Osprey that we watch."
Trash can have a direct effect on wildlife in an ecosystem, especially plastic.
If ingested, plastic can prevent food digestion in wildlife and can lead to a very slow and painful death. Furthermore, plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to break down, once an animal dies and decays after ingesting plastic, the plastic is then freed back into the marine environment to carry on killing other wildlife.
Tires are also a common find during the cleanup, as is outdoor furniture, bottles, cans, light bulbs, Styrofoam and much more.
"It's amazing what you find out there," Thompson said. "We found a bowling ball out there in Lake Martin, how does that get there?"
This event began in 2005 and since that time LMRA has removed more than 105 tons of trash and debris from Lake Martin.