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Lake Clean-up effort has grown significantly since last year

The second annual Watauga Lake Clean Up was held Saturday morning at various locations around the lake. This year saw a phenomenal increase in support by local businesses including large sponsorships such as Maymead, McDonalds of Mountain City, and Wal-Mart of Elizabethton. Local resident Mary Salter, who worked closely in conjunction with Fish Springs Marina’s public relations manager Malcolm Wilson, organized much of the groundwork. Salter, who helped start the event last year, is the president of the Watauga Lake Cleanup organization, which now has non-profit status.
This year Salter was hoping to see a 50% increase in volunteers from last year’s 260 who registered. Unlike Boone Lake, where much of the shoreline is privately owned and developed, Watauga Lake’s shoreline is 80% forestland. Much of the trash that is collected has come from either deliberate dumping, as in the case of many of the tires which are collected each year, or from trash that has washed down from the major creeks and rivers that feed the lake. Additionally, there are miles of road frontage where trash has been thrown from vehicles.
Much of the trash is found in secluded coves all around the lake or in locations where careless campers have neglected to pick up their trash. This year several larger groups signed on to help clean up, including the Sierra Club, Watauga Lake Sailing Club, and the sponsors of the annual Watauga Lake Triathlon.
Registration started at 8:30 a.m. and volunteers were soon out on boats or walking the shoreline in various locations picking up trash. A floating barge was put in place to deposit the trash on, as well as three dumpsters, one of which was set up at Fish Springs Marina on the Carter County side and one near Sugar Grove Baptist Church on the Johnson County side. Allied Waste supplied two of the dumpsters while Waste Management handled the third. Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter allowed the Johnson County dumpster to be taken to the transfer station in Doe Valley at no charge.
This year saw the creation of a cleanup day t-shirt sponsored by Maymead and McDonalds of Mountain City. The shirt displayed a logo designed by Malcolm Wilson and featured the names of every sponsor. According to Salter, “Every one of these people means something to me. Whether $10 or $10,000, they are appreciated.” Other large sponsors include the TVA, which donated the trash bags for the event, and the U.S. Forest Service, which donated gloves. Lakeshore Marina and Fish Springs marina also contributed boats to haul volunteers to various locations for cleanup.
Following the cleanup, a picnic was held at Fish Springs Marina that featured door prizes, a meal, and a performance by Lightning Charlie. Prizes included season tickets for the Elizabethton Twins and a Pandora bracelet.
When asked about her reasons for starting the Watauga Lake cleanup, Salter replied, “I would sit and watch every spring as the trash came in and I realized that if you want something done you need to get out and do it. Making a difference is important to me. It’s about Tennessee pride.” Thankfully that sentiment seems to be shared with many people all around the region who see a need to help keep Watauga Lake one of the cleanest in America.