Great American Cleanup seeking volunteers

With Earth Day just a few days away and springtime upon us, it’s the perfect time of year to perform a kind deed to aid the environment. Keep Conyers-Rockdale Beautiful will supply the tools if you will supply the time.

On Saturday, May 3, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. KCRB, in partnership with the city of Conyers and the Rockdale County government, will hold the annual Great American Cleanup.

Families, friends, Scout troops, church groups, schools, businesses, neighborhoods, youth groups and individuals are encouraged to participate by picking up garbage and other debris in certain locations in the community.

Volunteers may choose their own clean-up location or tend to one assigned by KCRB. Those interested may locate a registration form at www.rockdalecounty.org and turn it in by Friday, April 25. Forms can emailed from the website, mailed to the Rockdale County Department of Community Affairs & Innovative Programs, P.O. Box 289, Conyers, Ga. 30012, or dropped off at the Rockdale County Administration and Services Building, 958 Milstead Ave. in Conyers.

Representatives from each volunteer group may check in at Pine Log Park on May 3 at 9 a.m. and collect garbage bags, gloves, and brightly colored safety vests for people in their cleanup group. Volunteers will receive free food and a T-shirt for participating.

Last year’s cleanup attracted 300 volunteers who removed trash from roadways, subdivisions, commercial properties, parks, schools and illegal dump sites in Rockdale County.

Tonya Parker, director for the county’s Community Affairs & Innovative Programs office, said she has seen an upswing in the number of young people involved in the cleanups each year and that this year KCRB is working hard to focus on encouraging businesses to send groups of employees.

“It’s a good bonding experience,” she said.

Tonya Bechtler of the nonprofit Yellow River Water Trail, which holds regular clean-ups along the Yellow River in Newton County, said her group has decided to focus on a specific part of the Yellow River in Conyers at the end of Yarborough Road at the Milstead Dam.

She’s scouted the area, which is a granite rock outcropping littered with old tents, sleeping bags, beer bottles, empty cans, 5-gallon buckets and even an old boat. They’ll be particularly careful of hazards like broken glass and used needles, as well as the occasional snake.

“Unfortunately that beautiful outcropping has just been destroyed by drug addicts and two homeless camps,” said Bechtler. “The trash is just horrible.”

Bechtler said that local citizens have cabled off the area so that trespassers cannot further litter it, but much work will be required to clean it up.

“This area has endured years of neglect and abuse and is probably one of the worst spots along the river,” said Bechtler, who expects about 30 volunteers from her organization to work that day.

She said because there is a rock outcropping at that location, it’s a habitat for protected species. One day she hopes to have the area rejuvenated as a park and a kayak put-in area, overseen by an environmental organization.

“The goal we want is to engage the community to enjoy and protect the river by getting it cleaned up and getting more people using it for recreation and families and picnics,” she said.

For more information about the 2014 Great American Cleanup, call 770-278-7052 or email kcrb@rockdalecounty.org.