What to Expect at a Lake Cleanup Day


Last year my son and I got to participate in the Lake Cumberland Clean Up Day. Though we have often done personal clean ups when we are out on the hiking trails or out fishing, this was the first time for us to be part of a large group of volunteers. What a feeling to all be engaged in a joint mission to clean up the lake.


What to Expect at a Lake Cleanup Day

At the Lake Cumberland Clean Up Day, we checked in and were assigned to pontoon boats. One of the questions I had and others have asked is how we pick up trash from the deck of a boat. But we don’t actually pick up the trash out of the water. Instead, we went out into the lake and looked for beach areas where trash has washed up on the shore. As soon as we saw those areas, we would pull on to the bank, hop out and fill up trash bags, pick up tires and other litter.

We were part of a group of almost 400 volunteers on the lake. We picked up 168 tires and over a thousand bags of trash! Now that’s a good feeling to know that our day of work got that much trash out of the lake and off the shores.

Some clean up days are centered around the trails and what you can access by foot. You meet at a local point and all spread out along the trails and along the riverbanks. Each clean up is set up a little different, but there are some basic things to know about events like this.

Things to Know

Wear Gloves: When you pick up trash, you definitely want heavy duty work gloves. Some clean ups provide gloves to the volunteers; others require you to bring your own. Be prepared and protect your hands from jagged metal and broken glass.


Use heavy duty trash bags: If you bring your own trash bags, don’t go cheap. You definitely don’t want to take the time to pick up the trash only to have it all fall out and make you do the work twice.


Be prepared for sun and bugs: Know where you are going. If you will be out on the lake, wear sunscreen. If you are planning to hike through the woods down to the river or lakes edge, use bugspray.


Make it a competition: At the Lake Cumberland Cleanup, the team of workers made the work a fun, friendly competition. We were competing for the group with the most trash bags, most tires, and most unique item. Some of the unique items found on Saturday were a golf club, baby bottle, all types of sports balls (basketball, football, baseball, golf balls). Some of the members on our boat even pulled an old gas grill out of the water!

The Lake Cumberland Cleanup offered cash prizes for the different categories as well as the chance to win items from a free raffle!

We have always raised our kids to hate litter, pick up trash and leave nothing behind but footprints, but participating in a Clean Up Event like this took it up a notch. Have you ever participated in an organized clean up day? What’s the best thing about a day like this? Have you ever participated in something like this? Check out the closest dock near you and see if they offer an opportunity to partner with the community and clean up your shoreline!

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