Watauga Watershed Alliance makes changes to annual Watauga Lake Cleanup Campaign
The Watauga Watershed Alliance (WWA) is hosting its annual litter cleanup campaign this year with a continuous event running from now through October 31. This will be the 11th year of the event, which was originally started by a local resident named Mary Salter after she noticed that litter was a growing issue around the lake.
Secretary of the WWA, Dennis Shekinah, referred to the origin of the cleanup as a kind of “involuntary environmentalism.” Over a decade later, the cleanup is thriving. In 2017 over 8,000 pounds of litter was collected by volunteers around the lake, with dirty diapers and various plastics being among some of the most commonly found items. If this litter is left in the lake, it quickly becomes a hazard not only to local wildlife and their habitats but also to individuals who enjoy the lake recreationally.
While previous cleanups have been organized for a single day, the unprecedented climate of COVID-19 has inspired adaption on the part of the event organizers. Shekinah hopes that this continuous format will inspire residents to take more of a long-term initiative. “This is a local problem. We want to enlist local people in the cleanup and encourage them to take pride in the lake,” said Shekinah. “We don’t want to just target the day; we want to target the consciousness of the people who are causing this problem.” Shekinah believes that this is a key part in the long-term impact of the cleanup efforts.
Volunteers are invited to participate in the cleanup around the lake on their own time and are only asked to post a selfie with the trash that they collect, tag their cleanup location, and use the event hashtag, #wataugalakecleanup.