Last year, 4.5 million people visited Lake Cumberland. It's the ninth largest lake in the nation. It's a place of pride for those that grew up spending summers boating there, and those that live there year-round.
Randy Adams' parents bought a house on the lake in 1972. He now owns it and spends every weekend he can with his family on the Cumberland River Fork. "Our kids have grown up here since they were in diapers. And they love it," he told WKYT's Miranda Combs.
He took Combs on his boat to show firsthand the eyesores he sees from his dock. "I'm seeing oil cans, pop bottles, coolers, there's an antifreeze bottle. There's some kind of refrigerator, a deep freeze." Adams said the trash always seems to be the worst at his corner of the lake, but this year, it's worse than normal. "Would you drive down and come swim in this? I won't," he told Combs.
Adams isn't referring to the debris from trees in the water. That's somewhat expected at the beginning of the summer when the water level is up and the bank's forest falls in. He's referring instead, to all the trash floating on the surface. "It takes some effort to throw a tire in the lake," he said as he drove past two large floating tires.
Adams believes the trash is coming from Pulaski County residents. There is no mandatory trash collection in the county. People can pay for private pick-up, but Adams doesn't believe most use it, and he says the proof is in the water. "If they could put their trash in a trash can and take it to the curb, it would be easier than finding a place to dump it on a hillside or a creek or a river."
"It's a certain percentage of the people that ruin it for the majority of people because of their habits," explained Pulaski County Judge Executive Steve Kelley. "It gets junked up unfortunately by people who are selfish and lazy and want to get around the system," he said. Judge Kelley believes about 65-70 percent of Pulaski County residents pay for private trash collection. The rest he said, tend to get rid of it however they like.
"Do you think you will ever have mandatory trash pick-up in Pulaski County?" Combs asked.
Judge Kelley replied, "It's been talked about. I don't see it happening any time soon because of the nature of the area. It's a very conservative area and they just don't want government telling them they have to do this, or they have to do that." He went on, "If I were to try to push something like that as an agenda, the majority of the county would fight against that."
"Do you think there should be mandatory pick-up?"
Judge Kelley said, "I think it would definitely help the trash problem."
There are six counties that border Lake Cumberland. Only McCreary County has mandatory trash pick-up. However, McCreary County's judge executive said only 50 percent of the residents participate in the mandatory collection.