Every year for 27 years, Christine Bock has picked up trash on a particular day.
Bock has participated in every Tennessee River Rescue. Awareness has gotten better through the years, but she still expects every one of the 22 sites at this year's rescue to have a Dumpster full of trash at day's end.
"We had some areas that were dumps," she said of what the river was like 27 years ago. "And I used to joke that we had bigger pieces of furniture in the beginning."
This year's Tennessee River Rescue on Saturday was delayed from the original Oct. 3 date when rain showers flooded local areas. The sites were spread out over three counties — Bradley, Hamilton and Marion — as 800 people spent their morning picking up garbage.
"I just love the river," Bock said. "It's just not right. I just want to pick it up. It doesn't belong there, and if other people do that, I think they're making a statement on this day."
At Harvest Grocery in Hixson, Ellie Wallis was finishing up her first year as a zone captain. Her group of 15 volunteers spent the day cleaning up the area near North Chickamauga Creek finding all kinds of things — quilts, a television, and a roll of carpet that a salamander had made its home in.
"I just try to balance the people who don't care," Wallis said. "There are bottles down here that have been here for years and years. It's amazing how long things stay."
Wallis appreciated how many children came out to clean up the creek. She hoped they got an understanding of how destructive throwing a soda bottle out the window can be to the environment.
Mickey Irwin participated in the first 10 rescues, then moved out of the area for a few years. But since he's been back in town, he's helped with the initiative. He also said the River Rescue is much bigger than it used to be.
The thing that most helps people understand the importance of conservation is seeing with their own eyes trash littering a riverbank, he said. Throwing trash and garbage out on the roadside doesn't only affect that area. It could get caught in the river and end up 10 miles down the creek.
"Everybody needs to be more aware of the environment," he said. "If you pack it in, you pack it out."
Contact Evan Hoopfer at email@example.com or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.