The McMinnville Breakfast Rotary Club spearheads a River Cleanup Project each year to preserve a natural resource and promote economic development. This year’s effort held on July 16 attracted 375 volunteers who cleaned 40 miles of river and removed six tons of trash and 320 tires.
“The cleanup has grown from cleaning three miles of river, from Pepper Branch Park to Rocket Park, to 40 miles of river in Warren County’s 150 plus miles of waterways,” said Rachel Killebrew.
After breakfast at Pepper Branch Park, teams dispersed to their designated cleanup areas throughout the county. Durham Bus Services and the Senior Center donated their buses and drivers for the day to pick up and deliver teams to various locations.
Planning for just a large event takes months.
“Purchasing equipment needed, such as flat bottom boats to be used as trash barges, gloves, trash bags, first aid kits, bandanas, digging tools, grabbers, paddles, signs, food, water, etc.,” Killebrew said. “Seeking financial sponsors, in-kind sponsors, and partners, as well as assigning team leaders. There were 17 teams with leaders who had many responsibilities, such as planning their area of the river cleanup, ensuring their team stayed together, obtaining all of their equipment and helping with trash sites for dumping trash along the route for later pickup.”
Financial sponsors: Platinum Sponsors of $1000 were TVA, TWRA, WCUD, Walmart, and Bridgestone which is the official tire recycling partner; Gold Sponsors of $500 were Saint Thomas River Park Hospital, VFW which served lunch to all 375 participants, McMinnville Electric System, and Jarden Consumer Solutions, which also provided a cleanup team; Silver Sponsors of $250 were Homeland Community Bank, Caney Fork Electric Cooperative and Ben Lomand Connect.
“We would like to thank the property owners who allowed trash to be placed on their properties along the route,” said Killebrew. “Without these sites, it would not be possible to clean the river because the boats get full of trash and have to be unloaded several times before they reach the end of the trip. The trash is then sorted after the cleanup with crews headed by Pam Pesevisc to save the items that can be recycled.”
The goal this year was to get 85 percent of the trash sorted and taken to be recycled with proceeds going to Kids of the Community. The remaining trash is then picked up on land by the city of McMinnville at all of the designated sites.
At the end of the day, everyone met at the VFW where a full lunch of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs was prepared by VFW staff to feed the 375 hungry volunteers.
Also located at the VFW were booths set up by various Tennessee Agencies that help with environmental volunteer efforts:
Jane Polansky, from the State of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, is the Scenic Rivers Administrator for the Tennessee State Parks. She provided a Tennessee Valley Water trails web site, www.Tnvalleywatertrails.org, and materials to help volunteers learn about resources available.
Laura Williams, from the State of Tennessee Department of Transportation and Outreach Coordinator for the Environmental Division, set up a booth offering materials and assistance to expand the organization’s efforts in the future.
A Ranger from Savage Gulf Preservation Area had a booth with a snake, which he took out of the cage and allowed some children to touch.
A booth of creatures that inhabit Warren County’s rivers. It provided many materials and even an educational coloring book for children called “Kids on Patrol for Stormwater (KOPS).”
“Everyone enjoyed the booths and the representatives who came to help us and provide us with assistance for the future,” said Killebrew.
After winning second place in the nation’s American Rivers River Cleanup Photo Contest last year, McMinnville Breakfast Rotary is planning to compete again this year.
“It was a very successful day and hopefully also fun for all of the participants and volunteers,” said Killebrew. “We hope that our visitors and local people will never put any trash in our rivers again. Please carry a bag with you when you go to the river and take home all of your trash. Then we can all float the river and just enjoy its beauty.”
This year marked the ninth annual river cleanup effort.