published Monday, March 4th, 2013

Volunteers clean up debris, trash in Lookout Creek

Randy Whorton uses a chain saw to cut through a piece of log at the log and trash jam while Michael Plummer (right) and Joe Minton (back left) try to keep his canoe stable. Many logs had to be cut so the jam would loosen up and carry downstream, hopefully till it reaches the Tennessee River.
Randy Whorton uses a chain saw to cut through a piece of log at the log and trash jam while Michael Plummer (right) and Joe Minton (back left) try to keep his canoe stable. Many logs had to be cut so the jam would loosen up and carry downstream, hopefully till it reaches the Tennessee River.
Photo by Connor Choate.
  • photo
    Mike Scott uses a pool cleaning net to pick up debris in a major log and trash jam on Lookout Creek on Sunday afternoon.
    Photo by Connor Choate.
    enlarge photo

After January's bout of bad weather and storms, Lookout Creek is in a jam — literally.

A crisscrossing network of fallen trees and debris blocks a section of the creek near the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center.

Randy Whorton, executive director of Wild Trails, a nonprofit group that builds and maintains nature trails for runners, coordinated a cleanup for the creek on Sunday.

"This is exactly what Wild Trails is all about," said Michael Scott, a Wild Trails volunteer.

The jam was a hodgepodge of brush, branches and garbage. Countless plastic bottles were mixed in with shoes, basketballs, tires, and even a TV and a refrigerator door.

"[I'm] stunned that there's this much trash," said Scott. "Who knows, really, where the stuff comes from?"

About 10 volunteers attacked the jam from canoes while others maneuvered across the logs and used chain saws to break up the bigger tree trunks.

Scott said the block had been building for years, but that the recent storms had washed down litter that made clean-up critical. And it was up to volunteers to remove it, he said.

"It's a local problem. [Most parks] don't have the resources to do this. It comes down to local advocacy," he said.

The effects, however, are much more far-reaching than just the Chattanooga area. If it isn't removed, much of the garbage will end up in the Tennessee River and eventually the ocean. It poses serious threats to wildlife, according to Whorton's wife, Kris.

"Turtles get caught in those plastic six-pack holders and birds eat the plastic bottle caps. It kills them," she said.

While log jams occur naturally, it's often the carelessness of individuals that makes them into such environmental threats, according to Whorton.

"When it goes out your car [window], it ends up in nature," Whorton said.

"Do some research or just open your mind. Stop consuming to this point. Stop drinking bottled water and get a filter."

Scott said people don't have to be able to use a chain saw to help keep the environment clean.

"Everybody can get involved and do something," he said.

The volunteers worked for several hours Sunday to clear the block. Scott believed the project would take several days to complete.

about Lindsay Burkholder...

Lindsay Burkholder is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She graduated from Covenant College in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Covenant she spent time writing for and editing the news section of the school newspaper, The Bagpipe. Burkholder also attended the World Journalism Institute in New York City in 2011.

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