Renew Our Rivers (ROR) lake and river cleanups returned this year and waterways in the Yellowhammer State are looking better than ever.

Lake cleanup volunteers made the ROR 2022 season successful. (Mike Clelland / Alabama Power)

That is the good news from Mike Clelland, longtime ROR coordinator at Alabama Power, who said the 2022 cleanups netted 92.58 tons of trash. During the 2020-2021 pandemic, Clelland noted, the company and homeowner and boat owner (HOBO) groups “laid low,” with volunteers holding a handful of small, private cleanups. This year, Alabama Power sponsored 31 cleanups, with more than 2,900 volunteers helping to make them successful.

“It was just so good to be back out this year,” Clelland said. “It’s kind of making me want the season to hurry up and start again, hopefully, so we can get more people. It really seemed like there was a lot of excitement this year once we got back out there.”

This year’s trash haul was far less than the 158 tons removed by 4,500 volunteers in 2019, during ROR’s 20th anniversary.

“In 2020 and 2021, we were down a little, as far as the amount of trash,” said Clelland, who has coordinated Alabama Power’s lake cleanup program for eight years. “Surprisingly, the lakes and rivers looked pretty good.”

Boats loaded with trash from the Smith Lake cleanup in Cullman. (Mike Clelland / Alabama Power)“We noticed at most all of the locations that trash was a little bit down from what I had expected,” he said. “I think most of our stuff is washing in from a parking lot or off a side of a roadway, into a ditch and then a creek. I think people weren’t out and about, they were staying home and not throwing it out.”

Lisa Dover wasn’t expecting lots of volunteers to come out after the lull in river cleanups. Dover, executive director of Keep Etowah Beautiful in Gadsden for 20 years, anticipated about 50 to 75 volunteers attending KEB’s first cleanup since the pandemic.

“I thought I would keep it small and simple,” Dover said. “We actually ended up with 272 volunteers removing 1.58 tons of trash. Everyone was just so excited to be back together and making a difference in our community.”

Having fewer volunteers didn’t detract from the efforts, said Clelland, who led an Alabama Power leadership development group in a cleanup on Neely Henry Lake. Later, about 14 executive assistants from across Southern Company worked to beautify Lake Harris.

Now, Clelland and many HOBO groups are looking toward the 2023 spring cleanups. The first event will be Feb. 11 on the Alabama River, near Autauga and Lowndes County. Clelland said that some HOBOS and environmental groups are still scheduling events. As in previous years, the company will provide participants with trash bags, grabbers, gloves and T-shirts.

“I think we’ve had a very successful year – the numbers were a little down from pre-pandemic numbers, but we still removed quite a bit of trash on the waterways,” Clelland said. “Coming back to full speed, that’s really not too bad, and we are pleased with the results.”

Recent Articles