A new program to help keep the county clean, green and beautiful is gaining momentum. District 3 Commissioner Benny Carter held a community interest meeting June 30 at the BridgeMill Community Center. Limited to 25 people due to social distancing requirements, mask-donning interested residents attended to share their thoughts of how to get the program going.
“I took this to the commissioners in January, and our commissioners are behind this. I appreciate Bryan Reynolds who has stepped up and done most of the work for me,” Carter said. “I am also pleased with the community response. This needs to be a community driven program with county support.”
Carter added he wants to ensure this is not a siloed effort, understanding that cities in Cherokee County have complementing programs. Representatives from both Canton and Holly Springs attended the interest meeting.
“I want this to be an inclusive program,” Carter said. “I want to partner with Canton, Holly Springs, Woodstock, Waleska and Ball Ground and build on and support what they are doing. I also want to include the Chamber of Commerce who has had a going green initiative for many years. I don’t want to compete with or exclude anyone, and I want this to be truly countywide.”
About 20 people attended the interest session, including Recreation & Parks Board Member Mark Preetorius, who led the discussion; representatives of the Lake Allatoona Association; residents who have a heart for their community; and county staff involved with the project.
Reynolds, director of the county Community Services Agency, oversees both Cherokee Recreation & Parks and the Cherokee Recycling Center. Once the program is officially chartered and is underway, the Recycling Center will provide supplies like trash bags and will loan out trash grabbers for volunteers to use. Recycling Center staff also will handle pickups of trash following cleanup efforts.
“The Recycling Center will be the primary contact for Keep Cherokee Beautiful and serve as that support role as the county supports this initiative,” Reynolds said. “Some of the things the county has already done to get the wheels moving is the county attorney has drafted the charter and bylaws so as soon as we are ready to move forward with officers, the county is prepared to file with the Secretary of State and have a fully functional nonprofit organization.”
He added the IT Department has a website ready to publish and domain names reserved, and the county has identified some programs like Adopt-A-Road program, educational opportunities and large cleanup events to get started.
The top priority of Tuesday evening’s interest session was to not only gauge interest but to also determine what a Keep Cherokee Beautiful program would look like. Many in attendance are not new to litter cleanup and preservation efforts.
Linda Hartsfield, an Army Corps of Engineers retiree and “Lake Warrior” who is part of a concerted effort to remove litter from Lake Allatoona, shared data compiled of their cleanup efforts.
“Two and a half years ago, we had a group of folks who were put together to clean up year-round. They are known as the Lake Warriors. Since Nov. 5, 2019, they’ve collected 6.3 tons of trash. The majority of that trash is from Little River, Noonday Creek areas. We are aware this is a big problem,” Hartsfield said.
Craig Myers, who arrives to shoreline cleanup spots by canoe and is part of an Adopt-a-Stream program, said it’s important to capture the trash before it hits the waterways. Both he and Hartsfield addressed the use of trash weirs in the waters, and Hartsfield said she had been in contact with the Corps as recently as earlier that day about using them to collect trash in the water.
“The number 1 item we pick up is plastic bottles,” Myer said, adding the second most item they collect is tennis balls. He added thousands are collected in the Towne Lake area.
Those in attendance also shared suggestions of doing large item trash collections and special disposal days for things like hazardous chemicals and paint, and shared thoughts on groups to reach out to, including local high school groups and colleges.
There will be future interest meetings as Keep Cherokee Beautiful comes to fruition. Those interested in becoming part of the kick off of Keep Cherokee Beautiful should contact Troy Brazie, Cherokee Recycling Center manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.