Hundreds of volunteers will spread across 20 cleanup zones in Hamilton, Marion and Bradley counties this weekend to clean the banks of the Tennessee River and its tributaries.
The 30th anniversary of the Tennessee River Rescue will take place Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"There was a group of about 12 of us who were fed up with all of the trash along the river," said Christine Hunt, the Tennessee Aquarium's lead horticulturist. "Downtown was just an ugly, trashy mess and we decided it was time to do something about it."
Hunt was one of the volunteers who put together the first river rescue volunteer day in the fall of 1988. Their plan modeled a shoreline cleanup effort in Louisiana and covered two zones over two days that inaugural year. She will lead one of the 20 cleanup groups Saturday.
Cleanup will take place in Cleveland, Soddy-Daisy, Chattanooga, Harrison, East Ridge and Jasper. Zone leaders and contact information for those interested in volunteering can be found at tennesseeriverrescue.org.
Big item pollution is not as prevalent due to security cameras, crackdowns on illegal dumping and years of cleanup efforts, according to the Tennessee Aquarium — which now serves as the event coordinator. However, biologists and conservationists warn of the dangers of plastic waste in area waters.
"Concentrating on plastic pollution is the key to our future," according to a statement from Nancy Brice, one of the event's founders. "We need to remind people about this problem and encourage them to reduce their use of single-use plastics."