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Watauga Lake Watershed Alliance seek volunteers for annual clean up

Floating on a large piece of Styrofoam debris, local volunteer Josh Weir paddles his way to Pioneer Landing a drop off spot during the annual Watauga Lake cleanup. Organizers seek volunteers to take part in the event, which takes a somewhat different format this year due to the current pandemic. Photo submitted by Dennis Shekinah

By Tamas Mondovics

Under the motto, “Be the solution, make clean up your healthy habit,” the Watauga Lake Watershed Alliance is again looking for volunteers to join in helping its annual clean up at Watauga Lake. This year’s cleanup event marks the eleventh anniversary since its origination by Mary Salter.

The annual cleanup event has continued, and thanks to the support and assistance of many volunteers, the lake and surrounding shoreline has managed to retain its reputation of being one of the cleanest bodies of water in the continental United States. Practically free of industrial and agricultural runoff, Watauga Lake suffers mainly from litter pollution yet remains safe to swim in and fish.

“Still, the litter is an issue that needs to be addressed,” said Watauga Watershed Alliance Secretary, (WWA) Dennis Shekinah. “For the last ten years, a citizen-driven effort has met yearly to collect as much trash as possible in a single day.”

WWA set a goal to increase the trash yield every year. In 2017, a record of 8,060 pounds of trash was collected by coordinating volunteers on the shore and private boats focusing on inaccessible coves.The 2019 cleanup was also a great success due to volunteers from ETSU and ASU, the generous donations from Lake Shore and Fish Spring Marinas, TWRA and TVA, Carter and Johnson County governments Watauga Group of the TN Sierra Club.

Last year, nearly more than 50 volunteers helped remove close to another 8,000 pounds of waste from the lake. Thanks to the global pandemic, this year’s 11th-anniversary cleanup will be a two-month-long affair running from September through October, with individuals going out on their own to collect trash.

The rules are basic and include volunteers taking a selfie with the trash they have collected. Participants are asked to add a hashtag to the image and include their name and the location. Hashtag examples may include #wataugalake, #wataugalakecleanup, #leavenotrace, #cleanupyourmess, #Kayakerswhoclean.

The photos may be posted on Post on Watauga Lake Cleanup page on Facebook or a favorite media page. A dumpster will be located at Fish Springs Marina for trash collection.

Watauga Lake was completed in 1948. Visitors have continued to come to the water to enjoy fishing, swimming, camping, boating, and much more. With the increase in the number of visitors, unfortunately, comes an increase in the amount of waste and debris. To find out more about how to help, please follow the Watauga Lake Cleanup on Facebook and call or text (423) 534-4785.