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For the past three years, the nonprofit LIFT Ringgold has hosted Clean Catoosa, asking the community to canvas the county with trash bags in hand. This year, the service project is set to celebrate 50 years of Earth Day with trash pickup, beautification and creek cleanup throughout the county on April 18.

At least it was.

With a growing number of coronavirus cases across the state and country and shelter-in-place orders now in effect, the event has been postponed until fall.

"It WAS all coming together really well. We have a great list of work projects, great list of activity booths, several event sponsorships had already come through," LIFT Executive Director and event organizer Tina Pinkston wrote in an email to participants March 23. "We're just hitting pause on all that for now and will schedule an August Planning meeting for anyone who would like to join us."

That gives the organization more time to identify projects across the county with the help of the cities of Ringgold, Fort Oglethorpe, the county and the local chamber of commerce.

When the group began planning, Pinkston said the goal was for 50 projects — up from the 26 projects completed last year — in honor of Earth Day's 50th anniversary. By the time registration opened in early March, LIFT had already surpassed its goal with 53 projects or groups signed up to work.

Ultimately, Clean Catoosa volunteers will be split among teams picking up trash along roadsides, cleaning up South and West Chickamauga Creek, and helping with other beautification projects like planting trees or reclaiming neglected areas by cleaning up graffiti, for example.

Pinkston is looking for volunteers with their own paddleboards, canoes or kayaks to get into the creek to help clean the areas from O'Charley's in Fort Oglethorpe to Dietz Road, and from Dietz Road to Camp Jordan, through Graysville Dam toward Camp Jordan and Ringgold.

The nonprofit is also working to open a drop-in after-school youth center in Ringgold for middle and high schoolers. The goal is to provide an inclusive environment for students to feel empowered in their own worth and ability and Clean Catoosa is an opportunity to get students involved in their community and take charge in making the place they live a better place, the organization's website states.

Following the effort, an Earth Day celebration is planned at Northwest Georgia Amphithetre with interactive and educational games, open to both volunteers and the community.

Pinkston encourages volunteers to sign up and stay up to date via the Catoosa County Parks and Recreation website at catoosarec.com/clean-catoosa.html.

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com.

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