Year in and year out people in East Ridge volunteer their time and their backs to help make the creeks in our city better places.
This year, the 27th edition of the Tennessee River Rescue, forty volunteers, many of them from East Ridge High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, focused their efforts on a small stretch of Spring Creek behind Parkridge East Hospital.
“We are doing this for the community,” said JROTC Lt. Col. Jaxen Goodwin. “For most of us this is not our first time.”
Goodwin’s comrades had somewhat of a different take on the cleanup effort. “It’s fun,” said Jonathan Jofre, the lower half of his body caked in mud from digging up a partially buried trash can from the banks of the creek. Three of the JROTC cadets are also varsity football players, and they were celebrating the Pioneers’ win over Howard last night.
Larry Clark, the man who has spearheaded the River Rescue in the city for all these years, said 13 members of the JROTC program participated. The River Rescue was originally scheduled for Oct. 3, and he was expecting dozens more, but a conflict in the cadets’ training schedule precluded their participation.
“It’s a learning experience for many of these kids,” Clark said. “I’ll tell you one thing, you won’t be seeing any of these people throwing trash out.”
Clark and his volunteers combed a small portion of the creek that had never been cleaned up in previous years. Melvin Petty, the city’s director of sanitation, used a four-wheeler on loan from the city to haul up tires that had been collected. “We got 53 tires and one wheel barrow tire,” he said.
“We’ve never worked this stretch,” he said. “Many of these tires are very old and have been pushed slowly down this creek for years. One of the tires may be from the 1950s. It could be a museum piece.”
Bobbi Burks, a business major at Chattanooga State, said she was getting extra credit in her environmental science course for volunteering in the River Rescue effort and writing a paper on her experience.
“We’ve had a good time today,” said Burks, 25, and a little more mature than the high school kids she was working alongside. “It’s good to see stuff like this happening.”
Records show that last year volunteers removed 1,700 pounds of debris from the creek. This year’s tally has yet to be determined.