Making a difference

September 2011 News

A quick glimpse at the narrow beach around Chigger Island showed no signs of trash.

"Believe me, there's a lot there that can't be seen from out here on the lake," Allen Hardy said, while steering his pontoon boat up onto the island's sandy shoreline Saturday morning.

Hardy, Gloria Kneen and James Gregory each grabbed an orange trash bag when the boat stopped and headed into the weedy area above the beach. In less than 15 minutes, they each returned to the boat with bags filled with discarded cans, bottles, paper and plastic wrappers.

"Like I said, most people throw their trash up into the weeds where it can't be seen from the water," Hardysaid. "Out of sight, out of mind, I guess - at least for the ones doing the littering."

 Hardy, Kneen and Gregory were among dozens of volunteers giving up part of their Labor Day weekend to help clean up one of Rockingham County's favorite tourist attractions - Belews Lake. The annual Belews Lake Big Sweep is held each year on the Saturday before Labor Day, and event coordinator Steve Colburnsaid the timing is not by accident.

"The statewide Big Sweep campaign does not take place until the first weekend in October," Colburn said. "Unfortunately, by then the lake is pretty well deserted and there are only a few people around to provide boats and help with the cleanup."

The lake's Big Sweep event covers such a large area that Colburn said it requires as many boats and people as possible.

"That's why we decided to do it during Labor Day weekend," he said. "That's usually one of the lake's busiest times, and there are always lots of people here willing to give a few hours to help get things looking good before the season comes to a close."

Terry and Gloria Sheetz were two of those volunteers. The McLeansville couple has been giving up their Labor Day Saturday to help with the event for several years, claiming it's as much about having fun as helping the environment.


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