Originally published Sept. 17, 2018, 2:29 p.m.
Around 125 volunteers gathered at War Hill Park on Saturday, Sept. 15 to help clean Lake Lanier at the 30th annual Shore Sweep event.
War Hill Park is one of 11 locations where volunteers went to pull trash from the lake and its shores. Each year, thousands of pounds of trash are collected and taken to local landfills by over 1,000 volunteers.
“The event started 30 years ago and at that point consisted of mostly homeowners on the lake who wanted to come together and help keep their community clean,” said Wilton Rooks, President of Lake Lanier Association. “Now it has grown to include homeowners, marina employees, those who enjoy boating and other organizations and individuals in or near Hall County.”
Though Shore Sweep is held one Saturday in September, the initiative runs for two to three weeks before the main event.
“We always have several advance drop-off locations around the lake, so if someone wants to help out and they aren’t available on the event day, they are more than welcome to collect trash and drop it off whenever they please,” Rooks said.
Rooks explained that over the years that the event has been held, more than 1,000 tons of trash has been collected from 700 miles of shoreline.
Gordon Brand was captain of the War Hill Park location, where volunteers including members of Keep Dawson County Beautiful, the Rotary Club of Dawson County, cub scouts, boy scouts and other organizations and individuals from Dawson County met to gather trash.
Brand has been involved with Shore Sweep for the past 15 years, since he joined the Lake Lanier Association, and previously worked as the chair of Shore Sweep.
He said that when he started working with Shore Sweep, the drop-off was held in one central location. Over the years, he spearheaded different initiatives to make the work easier on volunteers.
“We thought maybe it would be a little more efficient instead of having one area, lets have different locations,” Brand said. “We used to go all the way down to the Islands to have lunch, but it was too long. We were the first to say, instead of going down there, we’ll have hot dogs here. From that, we said instead of having one person over it, let's have captains who would be over each area. It evolved to make it more efficient.”
Another thing Brand said has been a success is scouting, where a few scouts go out two weeks or so in advance and mark on maps where large pieces of trash are located.
“They identify where the trash is, the type of trash, and then I put it all together and we send it out. It’s very efficient,” Brand said.
And advance drop-off locations, like one at Nix Island near Athens Boat Club, which help volunteers who can’t attend shore sweep to pitch in on their own schedule, were another idea that has taken root during Brand’s tenure with Shore Sweep.
“When we get finished here, there will be enough trash in that advance drop-off to easily fill up one or two trucks,” Brand said.
Brand said Tuesday that the total weight of the trash collected at the War Hill location was 28,220 pounds.
“There wasn’t as much trash because it was harder to walk the shoreline, the water is so high,” Brand said. “It isn’t from lack of effort, there just wasn’t as much trash. We got about 70 pieces of Styrofoam, we typically get around 100-120 pieces.”
Brand said there were a lot of pool noodles, tires, deflated rafts and partial boat docks and ramps collected.
He also said the turnout of younger kids wasn’t as good as in previous years, which he said was probably because it was difficult to walk the shoreline and most volunteers had to go out on boats.
Overall, Brand said the weather was nearly perfect and he declared the day an overall success.
“The economic impact of Lake Lanier is huge in this area and we want to keep it clean and safe,” Brand said. “For a lot of people it's a labor of love, they enjoy doing it.”
Members of Keep Dawson County Beautiful cooked hot dogs and handed out beverages and snacks to volunteers, and each volunteer went home with a free T-shirt.
Tony Passarello volunteered his boat and helped pick up trash along with the Dawson County Rotary Club. It was his first time helping with the Shore Sweep.
“It’s such a great asset, the lake, and we use it so much it only seems right to give back,” he said.
Gainesville Times reporter Kaylee Martin contributed to this report.