Pictures: Berrien Beach Boat Ramp Cleanup 2020-09-12

Nine people collected 304 pounds of trash at Berrien Beach Boat Ramp in Berrien County, Georgia, and at Berrien Beach in Lanier County, downstream across the river.

[Boat Ramp, Berrien Beach, bags of trash, bottles]
Boat Ramp, Berrien Beach, bags of trash, bottles

We got a picture with banners early before anybody left, and more later, with the trash and the beautiful Alapaha River. See also the real trash problem, the companies that make it.

Photo: John S. Quarterman, L-r: Dan Phillips, Dylan Phillips, Bret Wagenhorst, Bobby McKenzie, Shirley Kokidko, Cindy Leighton, Becky Garber, Donald Roberson.

WWALS charter board member Bret Wagenhorst handed out t-shirts from the Georgia statewide Rivers Alive program, from our last cleanup near this location, in 2018 upstream at Sheboggy Boat Ramp.

[Rivers Alive logo]
Rivers Alive logo

Berrien County had just poured a new boat ramp.

[Boat Ramp with Bridge]
Boat Ramp with Bridge

The concrete was very fresh.

[Concrete of Boat Ramp]
Concrete of Boat Ramp

Berrien Beach

Bobby McKenzie paddled a kayak to Berrien Beach, but the river was low enough that most of us just walked across it.

[Berrien Beach]
Berrien Beach

The real trash problem: the companies that make it

There was no lack of trash, including the usual cigarette butts, shotgun shells, and yes, a few used diapers. The most numerous items were plastic and glass bottles and cans.


Sure people shouldn’t litter, but Anheuser-Busch and other beer makers, as well as Nestlé, Coca Cola, and Walmart, should stop making and selling disposable bottles and cans. Fifty years ago those things had deposits on them, and people would collect them for the cash.

People still do in Hawaii and nine other states. But not in Georgia or Florida. Maybe we should change that.

No, recycling will not solve this problem. There’s no market for plastic to recycle, and recycling has been pushed by big oil for years as an excuse to make more plastic throw-away containers.

You’ve probably seen the famous ‘Crying Indian’ ad from 1971:

Crying Indian
A Keep America Beautiful advertisement by the Ad Council, which was launched in 1971. (Ad Council) – Original Credit: (HANDOUT)

Well, the “Indian” was Italian-American, and that ad was part of a campaign by the front group Keep America Beautiful. Finis Dunaway, Chicago Tribune, 21 November 2017, The ‘Crying Indian&rdsuo; ad that fooled the environmental movement,

Keep America Beautiful was founded in 1953 by the American Can Co. and the Owens-Illinois Glass Co., who were later joined by the likes of Coca-Cola and the Dixie Cup Co. During the 1960s, Keep America Beautiful anti-litter campaigns featured Susan Spotless, a white girl who wore a spotless white dress and pointed her accusatory finger at pieces of trash heedlessly dropped by her parents. The campaign used the wagging finger of a child to condemn individuals for being bad parents, irresponsible citizens and unpatriotic Americans. But by 1971, Susan Spotless no longer captured the zeitgeist of the burgeoning environmental movement and rising concerns about pollution.

The shift from Keep America Beautiful’s bland admonishments about litter to the Crying Indian did not represent an embrace of ecological values but instead indicated industry’s fear of them. In the time leading up to the first Earth Day in 1970, environmental demonstrations across the United States focused on the issue of throwaway containers. All these protests held industry — not consumers — responsible for the proliferation of disposable items that depleted natural resources and created a solid waste crisis. Enter the Crying Indian, a new public relations effort that incorporated ecological values but deflected attention from beverage and packaging industry practices.

Sure, we do cleanups, and people should not litter. But the companies that make that throw-away trash are a much bigger problem. For example, Nestlé wants to suck up still more water from the Floridan Aquifer, this time near the Santa Fe River, so they can pump out more plastic bottles that we’ll have to pick up. You can help stop them.

304 pounds of trash from the Alapaha River

WWALS Outings Chair Bobby McKenzie weighed the trash this time with the scale Nic Llinas of Current Problems donated at our last cleanup at Twomile Branch, Sugar Creek, and the Withlacoochee River in Valdosta and Lowndes County, where we also won an award for water quality testing.

[More trash bags at Berrien Beach (Bret Wagenhorst)]
More trash bags at Berrien Beach (Bret Wagenhorst)

Bobby and I unloaded this Alapaha River trash at the Lanier County Dump.

[304 pounds of trash]
304 pounds of trash

Thanks to Lanier County for being more than willing to help clean up the Alapaha River.

[Lanier County Dump Site]
Lanier County Dump Site

Thanks to Donald Roberson for the idea of this cleanup. It fit well with all our previous cleanups at Berrien Beach Boat Ramp, such as in 2016.

Group picture
Successful Cleanup at Berrien Beach on the Alapaha River 2016-09-10

We also like to paddle this stretch of river, on the Alapaha River Water Trail, as for example in February 2017.

Berrien Beach,
Berrien Beach Landing (GA 168) to Lakeland (GA 122), WWALS Outing 2017-02-11.

As Bret Wagenhorst reminded us, for many years WWALS early board member Al Browning (R.I.P.) organized cleanups here, usually with WWALS. Never many people showed up, but we have always left the place cleaner.

Water quality testing

Al Browning was forever for water quality testing. He would be pleased to know that this same Saturday WWALS E.D. Gretchen Quarterman was conducting a water quality testing training. Nine new testers did the online pandemic-style course, and seven arrived at Drexel Park in Valdosta on Onemile Branch for the hands-on, physically-distanced, of course. The other two will do that part later. Gretchen will be conducting recertification training next Saturday, September 19, 2020, for those whose certificates are near expiring (like mine). More on those trainings in other posts. I collected water quality samples Saturday at Berrien Beach and Lakeland Boat Ramp on the Alapaha River; more on that in another post.

More pictures and a video

Meanwhile, there are more pictures of this cleanup on the WWALS website, and on facebook:

  • Shirley Kokidko

    Happening now. Just a few of the folks who came to help clean up.

  • Cindy Leighton, plus a wildflower.

    Wild flower for today from the Wwals river cleanup at Berrien Beach Boat Ramp. Leave it better than when you arrived!!!

  • Bret Wagenhorst

    For many years a group of local citizens has taken time on a Saturday morning in mid to late September to clean up along our region’s lovely blackwater rivers, to try to keep them pristine. Every year a few hundred pounds of trash gets picked up and hauled off. The local cleanups are usually organized by members of the WWALS Watershed Coalition ( a regional non-profit organization dedicated to trying to keep local waterways swimmable, boatable, and fishable and the underlying aquifer drinkable. Over the years the refuse encountered has changed in subtle ways. While drink bottles and cans and food wrapper comprise the majority of the trash, the drinks have gotten a little more sophisticated over the years—used to be mostly cheap beer and sodas; this year there were bottles of Pinot Grigio and cans of sparkling margaritas in addition to the usual Coors and Mountain Dew.

  • Great video by Bobby McKenzie

    If this is God’s country, then we should treat it better. I’ll never understand why people just leave their garbage like this at what would otherwise be an enjoyable spot on the river.

More cleanups and outings

If you missed this one, more cleanups and outings are coming up in October:

For more WWALS outings and events as they are posted, see the WWALS calendar or the WWALS outings and events web page. WWALS members also get an upcoming list in the Tannin Times newsletter.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!