More than 100 volunteers from all over the state come to Acworth, Georgia, for the annual Great Lake Allatoona Clean Up at Red Top Mountain State Park each year to remove solid waste by foot and by boat.
Red Top Mountain State Park hosted their 35th annual Great Lake Allatoona Clean Up on the morning of Oct. 3, 2020, where local and out of town volunteers gathered to remove solid waste from the park.
“They come back with an absolute big huge bag stuffed full of trash almost too heavy to carry,” says Shawn Kelley, assistant manager of Red Top Mountain State Park, about the volunteers that have the largest impact on him.
Volunteers like Courtney Anderson, a local chemical engineer, found an alcove with “a lot of alcohol bottles.” She made her way back to Red Top Mountain State Park’s visitor center when the trash bag she was carrying became too heavy to carry around any longer.
“Lake Allatoona is a very popular lake,” said Kelley, who has worked at the park for three years and with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for five. “It’s also the closest lake to Atlanta,” he continues in explanation of the park’s trash build-up.
Trash not only poses a safety hazard for wildlife, but it creates a food source for rodents that may carry diseases that can make park-goers ill. The Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy (DPPC) based in Providence, Rhode Island, also reports that the presence of trash diminishes the benefits that come with being outdoors and in nature by increasing “levels of anxiety and depression.”
Red Top Mountain State Park, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources by extension, isn’t the only park-system battling trash. New York City Parks began a new trash-fighting campaign at the end of August with a press release urging citizens to “show their parks some love” by either tossing their trash or taking it with them when they go.
Thailand’s Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa, however, took things a bit further when he posted to his facebook account that he would mail trash left at Khao Yai National Park to the tourists it belonged to, accompanying the post with photos and letters to prove it.
Kelley wants park-goers to know that “all of Georgia State Parks appreciate the Leave No Trace principles” and hopes that visitors obtaining more education will lead to less trash being left behind in the park.
More opportunities to volunteer with and visit Georgia State Parks can be found at explore.gastateparks.org/events.
Kyle Peterson is a senior majoring in journalism, specializing in photojournalism, in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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