published Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Volunteers sought for cleanup of Tennessee Valley rivers

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    Various volunteer groups participate in the annual Tennessee River Rescue collected sacks of trash that included plastic and glass bottles, food wrappers and old tires. The event takes place Saturday. Staff File Photo
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What: 23rd Annual Tennessee River Rescue

When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Waterways in Hamilton, Bradley and Marion counties.

Information: Visit and click "Zones" to find out which cleanup zone is nearest to you, and to contact your zone coordinator. Or call the hotline at 423-785-4177.

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Volunteer to help clean up Tennessee Valley waterways this Saturday, and you could become the proud owner of a life-size wooden Santa Claus. Or a waterlogged refrigerator. Or a set of false teeth.

Workers with the annual Tennessee River Rescue workday have found all of those items and more as they've worked to unclog the depths of area rivers, creeks and lakes.

"We've found granite tombstone markers. We find hoses and all kinds of appliances. We've found some dolls that have been in the water so long -- they look pretty creepy," said Larry Clark, who coordinates cleanup of Spring Creek as a part of Tennessee River Rescue.

This year, volunteers can join cleanup crews that will be stationed over 20 zones set up throughout Hamilton, Bradley and Marion counties.

A group of environmentalists started the event in 1988 after growing frustrated with piles of rubbish they found along Ross's Landing. Now in its 23rd year, the event has drawn as many as 1,000 volunteers in one day.

Included in those volunteers were Boy Scouts from Troop 74 in East Ridge, who have turned out each year in their old jeans and worn-out boots to wade in the creeks.

"We were shocked at the number of tires that were in the creek. One boy kept wading in and saying 'Oh, found another one.' It just amazed me," said Scoutmaster Ken Price, who said the boys also fished out a punching bag and a stop sign.

Last year, Clark said volunteers lugged 40 shopping carts from Spring Creek. Some years, they've pulled out over a hundred tires.

Garbage trucks will be stationed throughout the cleanup sites to help haul the large volume of debris to area landfills and recycling sites.

After a full day of scouring the banks, crews gather to award the volunteer with the best piece of trash. Last year's winner was a girl who pulled out the plywood Santa.

"It was bigger than she was," Clark said, laughing. "Who knows what it was doing in there."

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