Tucker Civic Association holds the 15th annual Rivers Alive! cleanupRivers Alive! event chair Katherine Atteberry talking to volunteers. Photo by Sara Amis
Tucker, GA — Every year for 15 years, the Tucker Civic Association has been cleaning up a section of South Fork Peachtree Creek as part of the Georgia Environmental Department’s Rivers Alive! Program.
They continued their work on Saturday, Oct. 7. Keeping the creek clean is an unending task, but important work, the organizers and volunteers say.
Rivers Alive! is a state-wide program that has collected 12 million pounds of trash since it began in 1999.
According to event chair Katherine Atteberry, the Tucker group alone has picked up over 120,000 pounds of trash since 2008.
“We record it as part of the process. Every cup that we pick up, there’s a tally sheet,” Atteberry explained.
There’s plenty to tally. Literal piles of beer cans, old clothes, tires, and even the kind of outsized check used for photo ops clutter the banks, while a few bottles and cans float in the water or nestle among the normal creek debris.
Atteberry says that part of the reason TCA chose this particular location is that South Fork Peachtree Creek is a headwaters creek.
Atlanta sits on a ridgeline, the Eastern Sub-Continental Divide, that runs in part along DeKalb Avenue. To the east of that line, water flows into the Atlantic, while to the west, it flows into the Gulf.
“We’re in the Chattahoochee River basin,” Atteberry said. South Fork Peachtree Creek starts in Tucker and flows into the Chattahoochee River. Farther south and west, the Chattahoochee merges with the Flint River to flow ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico.
Atteberry said that she thinks people forget that it’s all connected.
“What we do on the land impacts the water,” Atteberry said.
While many of those present have been attending for years, it was Caleb Whittington’s first time volunteering for the event.
Whittington said that he and his wife bought a house in Tucker, and he recently joined the Tucker Civic Association. In addition to the Rivers Alive! event he has also volunteered at the NetWorks Cooperative Ministry’s food pantry and with Friends of Tucker Parks.
Whittington said that volunteering makes him feel more connected to the community, but also environmentalism is a particular passion.
Despite the repetitive nature of the work, Tucker City Council member Cara Schroeder said there has been a visible improvement. Schroeder said that the first year they did the cleanup, the creek itself was clogged with trash.
Schroeder said that while the cleanup has become a tradition, she would prefer that the tradition of people leaving trash to be picked up would fade away.
Atteberry is hopeful that a planned section of walking trail which will be maintained by the city will mean that the group has to find another location to clean up. The Tucker City Council recently approved design work for a section of trail that will parallel the creek from the other side of Lawrenceville Highway all the way to Peters Park.
Schroeder is also optimistic that South Fork has a cleaner future.
“It could be beautiful,” Schroeder said.
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