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Rain does not stop lake cleanup

By Logan Vincent
We live in a beautiful environment. That is something no one in Johnson County can deny. If one takes the time to gaze around them on their commute to work every day, they’ll see that they are surrounded by a beautiful canopy of forest and a wide array of wildlife, the likes of which many people in more urban areas will never see.
Nestled deep inside Johnson County is one of its many beautiful blessings, Watauga Lake. Every year residents of Carter and Johnson County all flock to the shore of Watauga Lake for recreation. Whether you’re catching a fish or just sailing a boat out on the calm water, we can all agree Watauga Lake is a great place to kick back, relax, and enjoy the cool mountain afternoons. Nothing in life is free though and it is never more evident than when you take your first trip to Watauga Lake on your summer vacation and notice the incredible amount of debris. Frequent use of our little pond is causing quite a bit of damage and without the actions of organizations like Our Community Gives Back, it would probably never recover.
On July 20th, Our Community Gives Back hosted its fourth annual Watauga Lake Cleanup. Despite the early morning rain and flash flooding, volunteers still eagerly assembled at Sink Mountain Boat Ramp, off Highway 167 at 8:30 a.m to work passionately for their environment and community. T-shirts were handed out, as well as a supply of rubber gloves and trash bags. As soon as everyone was stocked up on an arsenal of supplies, the cleanup began. Miles away, on the Hampton side of Watauga, volunteers just as eager assembled at Fish Springs Marina, ready to do their part to clean Johnson County’s treasure.
The work undertaken by the volunteers is always daunting, but this year was probably the most challenging yet. Waves of rain came and went as Mother Nature flexed her proverbial muscles for all to see. Help came courtesy of the Tennessee Wildlife Reserve who aided the volunteers by taking up trash bags and clearing the litter as well. The TVA provided trash bags for all volunteers and the Tennessee Forestry Department contributed rubber gloves.
Volunteers launched out onto the lake and began dragging the water, searching for litter and debris that had been forgotten deep beneath the summer rainfall. Many others simply walked the shoreline, looking for any litter that made an appearance. The work is no easy task. Watauga Lake is over 16 miles long with a shoreline that is upwards of 100 miles.
As the morning got brighter, a great amount of litter and trash was pulled from the lake. Lawn chairs were found in many places and even a television set was pulled from the water. The volunteers did not hesitate to work through it though. “It is very important to us that one of Johnson County’s only places to go and have fun is well maintained”, said one volunteer. “I’m proud to come down here every year and work to make the lake a safer and more enjoyable place.”
After cleanup was complete, all of the volunteers and other workers assembled at Fish Springs Marina for food and live music in celebration. It was a fitting reward for Our Community Gives Back and all its volunteers that work so diligently to preserve our county’s beauty and natural resource.