Celebrating the environment

Earth Round-up, clean-up was fun day of learning

More than 6,300 pounds of garbage was collected and more than 800 children and adults were entertained and educated during activities for Earth Round-up on April 25.

Keep Blount Beautiful, the Little River Watershed Association and the Blount County Chamber of Commerce organized the event. Volunteers spent the morning cleaning the Little River, roadsides throughout the county and beautifying the area. The volunteers and the public then converge on Maryville College campus for an evening celebration, wrapping up the Earth Round-up activities.

Keep Blount Beautiful coordinator Charlene Desha said one of the challenging aspects of the day was the new venue at Maryville College for the evening celebration. In the previous two years the event was held on the campus lawn adjacent to East Lamar Alexander Parkway. This year it was moved to the oval at the center of the campus.

“It was a new space for the evening event, so we were trying to get used to how to do the layout,” she said.

Desha said the pleasant weather may have actually hurt the clean-up event in the morning.

“It was nicer weather and people apparently decided to do other things,” she said. “We had over 400 people last year. and it was less than that this year.”

Cathy Rhodes, Little River Watershed executive director, said there were about 350 volunteers. “It was less than last year. I don’t know if it was because the weather was great, but we did have a lot of kids participating this year, and that was great,” she said. “Overall it went wonderfully. I was pleased.”

Rhodes said volunteers got to most stretches of the Little River to do clean up. Boy Scout groups also floated down the river collecting trash, most of which couldn’t be picked up the day of the event. “We went back and picked them up later. We had a total of about 6,300 pounds of trash,” she said.

Desha said that in addition to the Boy Scouts, Girl Scout groups also got involved in the clean up effort. “Lots of Girls Scout groups cleaned in parks and along the streams and creek sides,” she said. “Lots of those people showed up and that was nice.”

Desha said Lindsey Wingo won the Blount County schools middle school art contest to create a billboard focused on recycling and the environment. The runner up was Georgie McCarthy and she took home a gift certificate. Lindsey won a bike and her picture on the billboard that is at three locations throughout Blount County and in Knox County.

There was a silent auction and plenty of music to entertain the crowd. Pistol Creek Catch of the Day, Mountain Folk Reunion and the Woodpeckers performed.

Desha said she hoped next year the event is bigger and better. “We look forward to having more people volunteering in the morning. That’s the most important thing is having the clean up and cleaning up the county,” she said.

The Keep Blount Beautiful coordinator said planners will work on layout issues from their new venue at the college. “This is our first year at the center of campus so we’re learning where things go,” she said.

Desha said guests repeatedly told her they were enjoying themselves. “Everyone who came up said they had a wonderful time,” she said.

Denso’s Bob Booker, vice chair for community development with the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, said the morning clean up went well, and the evening event drew a solid crowd.

“The evening celebration and education activities were equally as successful,” he said.

Booker said he was impressed with the crowd at this year’s evening event. “I thought the attendance at the evening celebration was somewhat higher,” he said. “The feedback we received was that the education area was greatly appreciated. We combined children’s fun and children’s learning there, and they had a good time learning.”

Booker said it appeared the community was buying into the event. “I do think the community is embracing it,” he said. “Evidence of that is the county commission issuing a proclamation in support of the event, the strong individual and sponsorship support and participation from a whole variety of groups.”

Booker said that area residents and businesses are dealing with a tough economy. “The economy is important, education is important and many other things are important, but we have to keep our environmental issues on our radar also,” he said. “By doing that, it helps to continue to make Blount County a great place to live.”

Booker said even in a tough economy, sponsors came through and provided volunteers with a free dinner during the evening celebration. “We thank Maryville College for allowing us use of the site for the event, US Foods for donating food for the free dinners and the New Hope Children Advocacy Center along with Maryville College spearheading the education area for children.”

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