Multiple ways to clean up for Earth Day
This Saturday will offer multiple opportunities for local residents of all ages to tackle a persistent problem in Gilmer County, that of littering and illegal dumping.
Keep Gilmer Beautiful (KGB) will organize a countywide Earth Day litter cleanup, while also presenting educational activities and a drop-off point for trash collected by the cleanup, in the downtown Ellijay courthouse parking lot April 27.
Cleaning up countywide
Cleanup registration takes place Friday, April 26, from 4-6 p.m., and Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. The cleanup will go from 8 a.m.-noon. Lunch will be provided for participants.
“We want to get as many people involved as possible,” said Jay Zipperman, KGB committee chairman.
“The big push is really to encourage people to get out and either clean up along their road or come on down to (the courthouse parking lot) and we will send them to some of the roadways in the county to pick up for a few hours,” he continued. “When a family comes up to register, we decide where they will go and match it up as far as (who’s in the group). We’re not sending young kids out on a major road, for example. It’s important that people register (because) they have to sign a release form for the county if they’re picking up trash as part of our program. If they’re a minor, they have to be with an adult.”
An Earth Day celebration will also unfold in the courthouse parking area from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. The day will feature educational presentations, activities for kids and live music by Deuce and the Wildcards. Jess Riddle, executive director of Georgia Forest Watch, will be a guest speaker, Zipperman said.
“Ellijay Rocks and the garden club will be there doing activities young people can participate in. We’ll also have beekeepers and the Master Gardeners will have a composting display set up,” he added.
Prize giveaways will take place throughout the day and all cleanup participants will receive their choice of an Earth Day T-shirt or reusable water bottle.
“We’ve got some restaurant gift certificates, gift baskets from local merchants and things like that to give away. It will be like a raffle, but the participants won’t have to buy (a ticket),” Zipperman said. “With plastics being such a negative in our environment, this year we’ll have nice stainless steel water bottles to encourage reusing instead of using disposable plastic water bottles. We’ll also be doing some education about reducing use of plastics and how (that affects) endangered species at the event.”
At Gilmer High School, a campus and trail cleanup led by the GHS Environmental Club will be held Saturday.
“It’s for students and family of students,” Zipperman noted.
Last year was the second big Earth Day cleanup conducted by KGB since the community effort was revived in 2017. The volunteer civic organization now serves as an advisory committee that reports to the county board of commissioners, Zipperman said.
“We did Earth Day events for 10 years (before a hiatus). We had them in downtown Ellijay and in the area beside Walmart. I tried to get someone to take it over because I had to take a break (due to work and other commitments),” added the longtime KGB volunteer. “Now that I’ve retired I wanted to jump back in and here we are.”
A report from last year’s Earth Day cleanup tells that 300 people and 28 local organizations participated, which contributed to more than 350 bags and 3 tons of total litter being collected from roadways and illegal dumpsites in the county.
“Overall, the event exceeded most people’s expectations. All those that rated gave it an 8 or 9,” the report reads.
This year’s cleanup will also target illegal dumpsites, Zipperman said. In past cleanups, some of the worst areas for that activity have been Roy Road, Big Creek, Yukon and Boardtown.
“Some of the worst (littering) is on roads that lead to our convenience centers,” Zipperman noted.
The KGB Adopt-A-Road program has helped keep some of the county’s worst littered areas picked up during the rest of the year.
“That program really helps. We’re encouraging our existing 74 Adopt- A-Roadees that (do litter pickup) year-round to also get out on Earth Day. We actually have a competition going for whichever (team) brings in the most bags of trash,” Zipperman said. “Another thing people can do is any kind of beautification project in their own yards or with, say, their property owners’ association or their neighbors.”
Last days for tire amnesty program
Zipperman reminds that April 27 will be the last Saturday for local residents to take advantage of a tire amnesty program offered by the county. Unwanted tires can be dropped of at the Tower Road landfill free of charge until Tuesday, April 30.
The program is for noncommercial tires, which must be off the rim and free of water. Each household is limited to 20 no-fee tires.
“This is the third year in a row for tire amnesty and we’re really getting a lot of tires cleaned up with that,” Zipperman said.
The Gilmer Farmers Market will also open for its 2019 season Saturday in the same general area as the Earth Day Celebration.
“We decided to try it in conjunction with the farmers market because there will probably be more people around downtown. It will be on the road at Broad Street and we will be set up in the (nearby) parking lot,” said Zipperman.
Keep Gilmer Beautiful meets year-round and the meetings, held the fourth Friday of each month in the board of commissioners conference room, are open to anyone interested in attending, Zipperman noted.
“We have the five-person advisory committee, but we always need more volunteers. People are welcome to show up at our meetings and help with different projects. We’ve got a lot of great ideas and things we can accomplish, but it’s hard to do all that with just five people,” he added.