3 days of cleaning

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Annual Fontana Lake clean-up yields success 

  • Brian Cable, Greg Davidson and Carl Ferguson (from left) unload just a small portion of trash collected during last weekend’s Fontana Lakes’ Clean-Up. Photo by Art Miller/amiller@grahamstar.com
    Brian Cable, Greg Davidson and Carl Ferguson (from left) unload just a small portion of trash collected during last weekend’s Fontana Lakes’ Clean-Up. Photo by Art Miller/amiller@grahamstar.com
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Fontana – “It’s not my trash, but it is my planet,” said Brandon Jones, manager of the Fontana Village Resort and Marina and co-organizer of the the Fontana Lakes’ 2nd Annual Lake-Shore Cleanup. 

The clean-up spanned three clear but very crisp days, with volunteers collecting trash from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Friday – Sunday. Last year’s inaugural clean-
up, which Jones described as “almost a spur-of-the-moment effort,” saw 30 volunteers net 21,720 pounds of trash from the lake. 

Fontana is not only a major recreational area but also a vital part of the area’s ecology, providing habitat for a wide variety of creatures. Perhaps most important to many residents, the lake also serves as the Fontana community’s source of drinking water. 

Water-borne litter is not only unsightly and inconvenient; plastic trash also releases toxic chemicals – including carcinogens – which can affect both wildlife and humans.  

Boats carried groups to different areas of the shoreline, while a National Park Service work barge transported the trash back to the marina. Volunteers included Boy Scouts, employees of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and members of GREAT (Graham Revitalization and Economic Action Team). At least 30 organizations supported the effort in various capacities.

The first lake clean-up covered only 1.5 miles of Fontana Lake’s 239 miles of shoreline. At that rate, nearly 3.5 million pounds of garbage could be littering Fontana’s shores. 

“The trash has been piling up in those coves for so long, at least 15 or 20 years,” said Jones. “There are places where you can stand on rafts of trash piled up on Styrofoam.”

The Styrofoam Jones referred to is not of the ordinary household variety: it is of the old-fashioned houseboat variety. Blocks of Styrofoam weighing up to 200 pounds can break loose from old or sunken floating cabins, where they ride the tides until lodging in a cove. 

Of course, Styrofoam is just one part of a larger problem. 

“There are millions of plastic bottles out there,” said Jones. “There’s trash of every kind built up in the coves until it looks like something out of a third-world country. This isn’t just Styrofoam; this is people throwing every kind of trash into the lake.”

This year’s goal was to collect 50,000 pounds of litter, more than twice last year’s haul. Fontana Village Resort and Marina’s Sabrina Garrison said that organizers were “really humbled by the turn out. It exceeded everyone’s expectations.” 

Garrison also noticed volunteers discussing ways to make next year’s clean-up even better and bigger.

“We are just getting started on this, but this problem is nothing new,” Jones said. “These clean-ups have to be a long-term project, because we definitely have a long way to go.” 

Officials were still weighing the amount of garbage collected from this year’s effort at press time.

For more information, contact Brandon Jones at 498-2129.