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Put together a frosty Saturday morning, a placid lake with the sun glinting off the water, a dozen canoes and dozens of “morning people,” and what do you have?
A crew of exuberant volunteers all set to clean up Lake Shelby by canoe, of course.
The volunteers, consisting of Collins Army ROTC members, Clear Creek Trailblazer volunteers, and some individuals, braved a chilly morning, rain gorged waterways and muddy creek banks to participate in the annual Clear Creek Cleanup, which also included a cleanup by Boy Scouts who policed along the banks.
The group gathered at the boat dock at Lake Shelby at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday – the same day designated as Earth Day in Shelby County – to get their “assignments” from Trailblazer Bryce Stella and Clear Creek Conservation Trust member Bob Walters.
The latter, who has spearheaded the event for the past 15 years, said the cleanup yielded seven large garbage bags full of trash, what he referred to as an average amount.
“We didn’t know for sure at first that we were going to be able to use the canoes this year because the lake was up so much,” Walters said. “But the water seems pretty calm this morning.”
He paused and glanced around at the water lapping softly along the bank, the distant honking of geese and ducks echoing through the still, cold morning air.
“We had intended to circle around and float down to Red Orchard [Park], but the water is up too much for that,” he said.
Adam Cecil, one of those who supplied a canoe, demonstrated some safety measures, with Walters in the vessel’s back seat, before the group took off on a brisk walk down to the shoreline, where the other canoes awaited.
“If things get rocky, just tuck down like this,” Cecil said, bending forward in a ball. “It shifts the center of gravity; works every time.”
Most of the volunteers were ROTC members and other students from Collins, including Taylor Jackson and Geordan Daugherty who clambered into a canoe, armed with trash receptacles and outfitted with brightly colored life jackets.
Stella, with daughter Coraline strapped to his back, contently slurping on her bottle, watched from the bank as teams of two took to the water in the crafts.
Walters, who went in the last canoe, after supervising the launching of all other vessels, said that canoes are used because volunteers can travel to the middle of the lake and pick up any trash floating on the surface, as well as any debris floating closer to the shore.
“You’d be surprised at the things we find,” he said.
Walters later said the cleanup went very well.
“We found a lot of plastic bottles and some Styrofoam, things like that, and even a wooden pallet somebody left down on the bank,” he said.
Walters said that the amount of trash has been declining slowly but steadily during the past several years.
“I think people are becoming more conscious of their trash and making more of an effort not to litter than in the past,” he said.
He added that he couldn’t have asked for anything more.
“All in all, I was very pleased; we had a good group of volunteers, I just want to thank all our young people for helping out,” he said.