North Carolina conservation organizations need 100 volunteers from Nov. 5-7 to remove litter from Fontana Lake, the country’s largest trash cleanup effort in a national park.
The event will be held over three days at the Fontana Resort and Marina. Volunteers can sign up for shifts anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The fourth annual Fontana Lake Shore Cleanup will involve at least 10 pontoon boats and six large dumpsters to transport and remove the trash. This year’s goal is to remove 50,000 pounds of litter with support from at least 100 volunteers who can commit 12 hours over three days.
Spanning 10,230 acres and reaching depths of 400 feet, the artificial finger lake is home to one of the most diverse fisheries in the country. Fontana Lake’s 238 miles of shoreline provide a natural landscape and unique habitats for wildlife such as black bears, bobcats, foxes, bald and golden eagles, ospreys, otters, turkeys and deer.
Visitors enjoy experiencing Fontana Lake’s natural beauty, rich cultural heritage and abundant outdoor opportunities. Boaters and anglers come for the spectacular fishing while campers and hikers explore the wilderness or Appalachian Trail footpath that crosses the lake’s dam.
“Unfortunately, Fontana Lake is also a gathering place for garbage that’s dumped – both accidentally and knowingly – or collected from other water networks that carry the trash downstream,” said Tara Moore, North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s director of conservation partnerships.
Left in the lake, the litter leaches deadly toxins into the environment reducing the quality of Fontana Lake and the Little Tennessee River. Aquatic and terrestrial wildlife suffer as well when they ingest or get caught in the litter.
“What’s great about the Fontana Lake event and our other habitat restoration projects is that the benefits are immediate and long-lasting,” Moore said. “We’re removing toxins from the environment, restoring visual aesthetics and maintaining the area’s cultural heritage, so it continues to be a beautiful natural resource for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy and explore.”
Since 2019, staff and volunteers from the N.C. Wildlife Federation, Mainspring Conservation Trust, Tennessee Valley Authority, National Park Service and Smoky Mountain Hiking Club have removed more than 100,000 pounds of litter from Fontana Lake through volunteer cleanup efforts.
“We’ve collected all sorts of garbage – massive chunks of Styrofoam, pieces of glass, rotted car tires and hundreds of bottles and other single-use plastics,” Moore said. “By eliminating trash from Fontana Lake’s waters, islands and shoreline, we have cleaner water feeding the Little Tennessee River, improved wildlife habitat and more inviting natural areas for everyone to enjoy.”
In addition to being the country’s largest trash cleanup effort in a national park, the event is NCWF’s most significant collaborative habitat restoration effort. For every 25 pounds of trash collected at the lake and dam, the organization will plant a native tree, shrub or 10 pollinator plants to promote healthy wildlife habitat.
Most Fontana Lake volunteers come from Swain and Graham counties, but any conservation-minded individuals are welcome to help. Financial support from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Bill Staton, in honor of Novare Capital Management, made it possible to appropriately dispose of the litter and recycle more than 200 tires from last year’s clean-up.
For questions on signing up, contact Tara Moore at 704-332-5696 or firstname.lastname@example.org.