Organizers expect big crowd, haul for Saturday’s Riversweep

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comOctober 1, 2013 

— Despite a somewhat retro feel to this year’s event, organizers of Saturday’s Riversweep expect 1,000 or more people to pitch in and help clean Lake Wylie’s shoreline.

This year is the 12th annual Riversweep. It begins at 8 a.m. Saturday along Lake Wylie, where volunteers will walk or boat along the water’s edge cleaning up trash, debris and pretty much anything else they can find.

“Year after year, people come out to clean up the lake, bringing friends and neighbors with them,” said longtime volunteer C.D. Collins. “We have been successful in motivating larger and larger groups to turn out and do some good for Lake Wylie.”

Collins is a member of the Lake Wylie Covekeepers, a local unit of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation that’s a driving force behind Riversweep along with the Lake Wylie Marine Commission and business partners including T-Bones On The Lake, Jonathan Edwards Excavating, Dock Masters and Rowboat Dock and Dredge.

In recent years, the event has surpassed the 1,000 volunteer mark with an afterparty and free food. This year, there won’t be a party or food, with grant money and the major food sponsor not coming in.

“It’s back to basics, kind of like the first Riversweep,” said Ellen Goff, Lake Wylie Lakekeeper. “We hope people will come out this year, as they have in the past, to contribute their time and energy to improving conditions around the lake.”

Goff calls Riversweep a “feel good event” where volunteers get to enjoy the water and camaraderie.

“The absence of an organized afterparty should not diminish this,” she said.

Another concern for organizers is the recently held Big Sweep, a statewide event in North Carolina similar to Riversweep. They’ve been held the same Saturday in past years, but Big Sweep was a week earlier this year.

“We want the public to know that Riversweep is the only clean-up event focused specifically on Lake Wylie’s shoreline, coves, stream banks and creek beds, as well as around bridges and boat landings,” Goff said.

Other changes have volunteers excited, however. There will be recycling at all York County sites and possibly some in Gaston or Mecklenburg counties. The number of sites increased in recent years, strategically placed from dam to dam. This year’s new location is Catawba Yacht Club in Mecklenburg County, the 14th site.

“Our goal is to gain more participation from people who live around each volunteer site and to encourage local stewardship in each part of the lake and along the shoreline,” said Lake Wylie Marine Commissioner Smitty Hanks, event planning chairman.

One factor that could mean a big day for Riversweep is the heavy rain that pounded the area this spring and summer. Total rainfall figures were up, but there also were significant storms that flooded the river in places. Items detached, dislodged or were carried away with high water – dock pieces, tires, balls of all sorts – should be there for the taking Saturday.

“The rain ought to make for a lot of available trash to clean up at Riversweep,” said Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins. “It’s all the more reason we need folks to come out.”

Sites this year are Allison Creek, Buster Boyd and Nivens Creek access areas, Harbortowne, Tailrace, Tega Cay and River Hills marinas, Catawba and Charlotte yacht clubs, Copperhead Island, Dale’s Landing, Ebenezer Park, Gaston Wildlife Club and the South Carolina side of Seven Oaks Bridge.

Volunteers, especially those with boats, are encouraged to register online at lakewylieriversweep.com. Organizers ask that boat captains register by Thursday, Oct. 3. Tarps will be provided.

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