Staff Photo: Erin Evans
A rope swing hangs over the water of the South River. The location is just south of Oglesby Bridge Road near the Rockdale-Henry County line and is a popular local swimming hole. Local residents have expressed concern over water pollution in the river as plans continue to build a multiuse trail that would run along the river.
The Cumberland River in Harlan County is now a little cleaner.
More than 80 volunteers spent their Saturday pulling garbage out of the river to make it a safer place.
The River is usually beautiful at this time of the year, but garbage and waste have built up over time. Harlan volunteers wanted to do something about it.
"A lot of people here would like to get in the water and canoe or kayak in the Cumberland River. It's a beautiful river, but there's been a lot of trash thrown in it. So we're trying to get it so you can enjoy the river as well as the mountains here," said Croley Forester, a volunteer and Harlan native.
Each group of volunteers was dispersed throughout the county allowing them to focus on cleaning their part of the river.
"We split up in teams. We have one team on the other side of the river bank and of course my team on this side of the river bank. We pretty much go along the banks and whatever you see, pick it up and put it in garbage bags," said Joshua Bunnell, a soldier from the National Guard.
But some of the trash was too big to fit in garbage bags.
"We've pulled hundreds of tires out of the river already. The roof of a trailer, microwaves, refrigerators, washers, dryers, anything you can think of," Forester said.
In just a short amount of time, the National Guard pulled all sorts of things from the river, including bed frames, baby cribs and even a basketball net.
The volunteers are hoping their clean-up efforts will cause a domino effect.
"I saw a resident who was out there picking up trash. He had seen us out there so he started picking up trash, so I guess we lead by example," Bunnell said.
Forester says he's proud of the volunteers work and he hopes to continue the project in the future.
Harlan County workers are collecting all of the garbage on Monday. Officials say they will try to recycle as much of it as they can.