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Riverkeepers to ‘Sweep the Hooch’

LaGRANGE – On Saturday morning, volunteers plan to take to the river for the seventh annual Sweep the Hooch event to clean the trash that has collected out of one of the region’s most notable natural features.

“There are going to be three sites in the area – in this area… one will be West Point Lake,” said Laura Breyfogle of the Chattahoochee Riverkeepers in an earlier interview. “We are actually going to do a paddling trip, and paddle to some secluded coves and clean up there. The Army Corps of Engineers is identifying them for us since they know the lake, and then Chattahoochee Bend State Park near Newnan.”

This year the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper plans to host a clean-up site starting at the Riverview Boat Landing in Valley as well as at Brush Creek Park which is along West Point Lake in Franklin. Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Newnan will also be a paddle trip start point, and just south of there in McIntoash Reserve Park in Whitesville, the group plans to allow a group to pick up trash from the riverbank and adjacent island if the river levels remain low enough for walkers to cross over.

Last year, 582 volunteers pulled 15.5 tons of trash from the Chattahoochee River and its tributaries, and the Riverkeeper organization is seeing the effect of the cleanup in the rivers and lakes.

“We’ve been doing that clean up since we started in 1994,” said Henry Jacobs, Middle Chattahoochee Outreach Manager, during an earlier interview. “I think we added up recently how much trash we’ve collected over the past 22 years, and it is approaching – we are at like 980 tons of trash collected over 22 years.”

The one-day event covers more than 40 cleanup sites and more than 100 river miles with volunteers wading, walking and paddling to get trash out of West Point Lake’s largest tributary. Program coordinators estimate that the annual event has removed 41 tons of trash since 2011.

“All these cleanups have been going on upstream of West Point Lake – in the metro Atlanta area especially – and that is over 900 tons of trash that hasn’t collected in West Point Lake because of all the volunteers that have helped,” said Jacobs. “Yet, there is still more trash to be collected. That seems to be an ongoing issue.”

While signup for the cleanup are closed, the Riverkeeper always encourages people to help keep the lake and river clean by picking up any trash along the river or lake.

The Riverkeepers’ next local event will be the Chattahoochee Valley River Revival at West Point River Park at 209 E. 10th Street, West Point on May 6. The event will feature a 3-mile family-friendly paddle trip beginning at Hardley Creek Park at 5 p.m. and ending at the downtown river park where there will be music, food and short films.

To learn more about the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper or the lake clean up go to www.chattahoochee.org.