» Subscribe Today!
The Power of Information
Home
The Ledger - EST. 1978 - Nashville Edition
X
Skip Navigation LinksHome > Article
VOL. 36 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 27, 2012

Friends see a need, turn it into a mission

By Hollie Deese

Print | Front Page | Email this story

Nashville Clean Water Project

The next community clean-up is Saturday, May 5. Required pre-registration for the event is available on the website.

When Mark Thien set out on a camping trip with some buddies to an island Percy Priest Lake in 2007, he was in for an unexpectedly rude awakening. The closer they got, the more excited they became. But when they landed and got off the boat, the illusion of the gorgeous private island they had in their mind was shattered.

“As we started walking, we saw all this trash everywhere,” he says. “And not just a little bit of litter here and there. Piles and piles of trash, and that was my first impression of Percy Priest Lake.”

Shocked, he snapped some pictures with his phone before he and his camping buddies started to clean up. They filled 13 garbage bags and, after that weekend, he was committed to doing something more. He called Laurel Creech, the founder and director at the time of Team Green Adventures, to see if they could team up on the problem.

Thien is no stranger to eco-issues. A brand and marketing professional, he created Envolve Strategies, a sustainability consulting company.

“I felt, between the two of us, we really knew how to rally this community and were well connected,” he says.

So he and Creech organized the first official cleanup in May 2008, with volunteers ridding the area of as much trash as they could, including mannequin limbs, a full-sized traffic light, office equipment, coolers, grills, chairs and more. “We decided we were going to do a cleanup and fix the problem. But we had no clue how big it was.”

In fact, Percy Priest Lake is 33,000 acres of land and water, with 216 miles of shoreline. It is among the top 10 most-visited lakes in the country managed by the Corps of Engineers, with nearly seven million daytime visitors every year.

“With all those people come a tremendous amount of pressure, pressure on the land, pressure on the facilities and pressure on what is apparently an insufficient refuse program out there and people just leave their stuff behind.”

Years of shrinking budgets have contributed to the trash pileup, as well as the fact that Percy Priest is in the middle of two watershed associations: the Stones River Watershed and Cumberland River Compact.

“We worked behind the scenes the first five months to see what the issues were since we thought it was primarily recreationalists using the lake and leaving their trash behind,” he says. “But it was primarily storm water wash up. When it rains and the wind blows, stuff ends up in the gutter it goes in the storm drains and that was what was happening at the lake. There are all these different sources of trash,” Thien says.

Thien says his group has gotten the recreational area to a more manageable level over the past five years and for the next cleanup will be concentrating on adjacent, harder-to-reach spots like out-of-the way roadways where motorists have been dumping trash.

“What we set out to do was create something that people could get on board with and understand there is a real problem,” Thien says. “I feel like this is the community’s problem, and this community should be able to amass the resources to fix this program and not appeal for grants outside this community. This is a Middle Tennessee problem.”

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter & RSS:
Sign-Up For Our FREE email edition
Get the news first with our free weekly email
Name
Email  
TNLedger.com Knoxville Editon
RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 0 0
MORTGAGES 0 0 0
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 0
BUILDING PERMITS 0 0 0
BANKRUPTCIES 0 0 0
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 0 0
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0