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Volunteers work to tidy Liberty's waterways

Effort is part of Make a Difference Day

POSTED: November 6, 2013 10:26 a.m.
Photo by Samantha B. Koss/

Gabriel Alvarado passes Chemtall employee Percy Price an aluminum can Saturday near a bridge in Riceboro during the Rivers Alive cleanup.

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Keep Liberty Beautiful hosted its annual Rivers Alive cleanup event Saturday to boost the health of the many creeks and waterways in Liberty County.
Between 800 and 900 volunteers registered to help tidy up Liberty County’s rivers and roadsides. About 100 volunteers participated prior to Saturday, and a few hundred more are scheduled to perform cleanups during the next two months.
“This is the largest Rivers Alive cleanup we have ever had,” KLB Director Sara Swida said. “This event gives families an opportunity to help their community and make it better.”
Keep Liberty Beautiful also hosts more than two months of cleanup events every spring. Rivers Alive is a statewide waterway cleanup effort that is part of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. One hundred countries participate in cleanups in the fall, Swida said. Locally, Rivers Alive is sponsored by SNF Chemtall and Keep Liberty Beautiful.  
The Liberty County cleanup started in 2006 when Swida saw how it could benefit Liberty County.
“I thought this program was important for us because we are coastal county,” she said. “Waterways are critical to our quality of life here.”
Liberty County is covered in swamps and creeks that flow into larger waterways before heading out to the ocean.
“If you looked at a map of our county, you see a bunch of blue and green,” Swida said. “We have a wealth of wetlands that all very Keep Liberty Beautiful hosted its annual Rivers Alive cleanup event Saturday to boost the health of the many creeks and waterways in Liberty County.
Between 800 and 900 volunteers registered to help tidy up Liberty County’s rivers and roadsides. About 100 volunteers participated prior to Saturday, and a few hundred more are scheduled to perform cleanups during the next two months.
“This is the largest Rivers Alive cleanup we have ever had,” KLB Director Sara Swida said. “This event gives families an opportunity to help their community and make it better.”
Keep Liberty Beautiful also hosts more than two months of cleanup events every spring. Rivers Alive is a statewide waterway cleanup effort that is part of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. One hundred countries participate in cleanups in the fall, Swida said. Locally, Rivers Alive is sponsored by SNF Chemtall and Keep Liberty Beautiful.  
The Liberty County cleanup started in 2006 when Swida saw how it could benefit Liberty County.
“I thought this program was important for us because we are coastal county,” she said. “Waterways are critical to our quality of life here.”
Liberty County is covered in swamps and creeks that flow into larger waterways before heading out to the ocean.
“If you looked at a map of our county, you see a bunch of blue and green,” Swida said. “We have a wealth of wetlands that all very vulnerable to trash.”
Volunteers spread out in 40 locations from Riceboro and Hinesville to the eastern end of the county at Sunbury and Half Moon. Cleanup sites have increased from two sites in 2006 to seven hubs and 40 locations. Participation increased from 87 volunteers the first year.   
“We were so excited to have that many volunteers the first year,” Swida said. “Participation has sprouted so much in just eight years.”
Parents took advantage of the cleanup to teach their children the repercussions of littering and the importance of community service.
Keep Liberty Beautiful board member Leah Poole has brought her son, Gabriel Alvarado, 7, to cleanups since he was 3.
“It is important to keep the environment clean,” she said. “I take my son to these cleanups every spring and fall to teach him the importance of keeping the environment clean … it is something we strongly believe in.”
Gabriel collected trash with a group from SNF Chemtall and the Davis family. First-time volunteer Landon Davis, 13, worked with his mom, Lisa.
“I want Landon to understand that trash doesn’t just go away when you litter,” Lisa Davis said. “Someone has to clean it up.”
The group followed the road toward Riceboro, collecting cans, cigarette buds and bottles.
This trash accumulates on the roadsides and ultimately drifts down to the waterways and creeks. Swida said most of the trash they collect consists of plastics and aluminum cans. Volunteers always keep a record of what they collect so KLB can track litter patterns over the years.
Trash builds up more in the urban areas, such as Hinesville, due to the heavier population, Swida said. Keep Liberty Beautiful is working with the Fort Stewart garrison to keep areas around the post cleaner.
 “More people mean more trash, so we try to focus on those areas,” she said. “The best way to keep trash levels low is hosting educational campaigns and by building awareness.”
Since the program started, Swida said there has been a big improvement in levels of trash. Every year they collect fewer pounds of garbage.
“There is a very significant difference of amount of trash,” Swida said. “I am so thankful for all the participation … we are making a big difference in our county.”

 

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