Ocmulgee River cleanup coming up Saturday morning

Staff reportOctober 4, 2013 

Erosion_Ocmulgee

A couple walks along a section of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail in Macon in 2010. The ninth Ocmulgee Alive! cleanup of the river begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

WOODY MARSHALL — wmarshall@macon.com

If you’re waiting at a stop light in downtown Macon and see cigarette butts and other trash outside your car window, it’s a safe bet that much of it will find its way to the Ocmulgee River after a hard rain.

Once a year, hundreds of volunteers fan out along the river and pluck trash from it, making the vital Middle Georgia waterway a little cleaner.

This year’s Ocmulgee Alive! effort -- the ninth -- begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. More than 300 people already have signed up to help during the morning, but more volunteers are always welcome, said Mark Wyzalek, a Macon Water Authority employee who helps coordinate the initiative.

And it’s not just soft drink bottles and cans, discarded cups and other litter that volunteers find.

“I’m always amazed at the number of shopping carts we find from grocery stores that are miles away from where we find them,” said Wyzalek, the authority’s director of laboratory/environmental compliance.

Many of Saturday’s volunteers have preassigned areas to clean. For those who don’t, Wyzalek says they should report to Rotary Park on Riverside Drive near First Street for instructions. Volunteers will spend about three hours Saturday morning helping clean a 2-mile stretch along the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail.

Workers should wear boots (or sturdy shoes), a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, a hat and sunscreen. They should also bring work gloves, insect repellent, drinking water and a tool to pick up trash. Volunteers will need to sign a medical release and liability waiver.

Saturday’s work in Macon is part of an effort involving the statewide Rivers Alive campaign, sponsored by the state Environmental Protection Division’s Adopt-a-Stream program and the Keep Georgia Beautiful program. There are about 250 such efforts across Georgia, and Macon’s cleanup turnout is the fourth largest.

Wyzalek was quick to thank corporate sponsors, including YKK USA, Graphic Packaging International and Coca-Cola Refreshments, as well organizers that include the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful, the National Park Service, the Bibb County Cooperative Extension office and Historic Riverside Cemetery Conservancy.

“Without them, we wouldn’t have the success that we do,” he said.

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