On a sunny, fall-like Wednesday afternoon in October, the Lake Wedowee Property Owners Association and all of their volunteers stopped for a meal at Rice Pavilion at Lake Wedowee. The 37 volunteers had just wrapped up another solid day of cleaning trash and other debris around the lake, as part of the “Renew Our Rivers” campaign, that has just wrapped up their 27th year.
Following the wonderful lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches, Brunswick stew, and cookies provided by WM Grocery; Sheila Smith, Bob May, as well as Marlon and Betty Glover, sat down for a discussion on how far the campaign has come over the last two decades, and how much the local community has helped the cause.
Today’s journey has improved since beginning in 1992, says Bob May, one of the organizers of “Renew our Rivers.” May says that the effort began with less than 10 people on one boat, and would last upwards of six days, from 8 AM to dark.
“We would spend two days just on one cove, it was a lot of work,” says May of the first lake cleanup. “I’d lose ten pounds in the week that we were doing it.”
Not only has the number of volunteers increased, but the amount of trash collected has dropped since the project began.
Marlon Glover told us that the number of refrigerators, washing machines, tires, and even stranger items such as bowling balls were alarming.
More volunteers began to come out, and the event became more organized and was then given the title of “the Tallapoosa Trashout,” says Sheila Smith of the Alabama Power Shorelines, who has also been a part of the efforts since the inception. Alabama Power then began to consolidate all 37 cleanup efforts into one campaign and became what it is known today as “Renew our Rivers” 19 years ago.
The Lake Wedowee version of “Renew our Rivers” has been called the most organized lake cleanup efforts in the state, and it all goes back to the volunteers.
In 2018, “Renew our Rivers” on Lake Wedowee averaged 36 volunteers per day, ranging from members of the Lake Wedowee Property Owners Association to community members who took a few vacation days to help out. Even the Randolph County High School fishing club sent members out to help with cleanup efforts.
The volunteering does not stop at just cleanup. Local restaurants and grocery stores have donated food and water to volunteers, and others have donated boats to provide transportation around the lake.
“This community is wonderful at donating,” says Betty Glover. Mrs. Glover took the time to thank Lakeside Marina, WM Grocery’s deli, and Crystal Barnes with Hunter Bend Realty for feeding the volunteers, in addition to Small Town Bank and Perryland Foods, who donated water and snacks respectively.
“Renew our Rivers” has also seen an abundance of boats donated to aid in cleanup efforts. Randy Morris at Wedowee Marine donated three boats, as well as gas; Alabama Power and other local donations had the number up to nine donated boats.
From humble beginnings filled with bologna sandwiches and six-day efforts to a growth in community involvement, “Renew our Rivers” is stronger than ever. Marlon, Betty, Bill, and Sheila all say that the event is more than just collecting trash and providing a better lake for residents and wildlife, it has become a fun experience full of memories and meeting others who share a love for our lake.
For more information on “Renew Our Rivers”, as well as everything going on with the Lake Wedowee Property Owners Association, visit www.lakewedoweepoa.com
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