Where does all this stuff come from?

I cannot tell you how many times I heard that question on September 19th during the 3rd Annual High Rock Lake Clean Sweep. I was stationed at Dutch Second Creek starting at 7 a.m. that Saturday – there to give out latex gloves, trash bags, plastic boat coverings, and masks to our volunteers. Yes, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping HRL clean is important. On a chilly mid-September morning, highs in the 50’s, many volunteers came to work the lake and pull in as much trash as they could muster, by boat or simply by walking along the shoreline at the various coves that give High Rock Lake its unique shape.


A map showing the unique shape of HRL.


Homeowner associations, 41 boy scouts, dozens of individual homeowners, and even a few families who do not live on the lake but have been enjoying it for years came out to the wildlife access ramp to receive supplies and identify the location that they preferred to work. No matter the connection to the lake, all of us had one thing in common; an appreciation for our natural resource and the desire to keep our recreational gem sitting between Rowan and Davidson Counties CLEAN and safe. With three clean-up access points on the lake, volunteers were led by High Rock Lake CleanSweep committee members Shane Graham, Barry Childers, Jeff Swing, Richard Freud, AnnMarie Clark, Ron Gibson, Karen Baldwin, Edgar Miller, and myself.

The results from our army of ‘clean sweepers’ was impressive: 4,560 pounds of trash hauled into the Rowan County provided dumpsters and 3,040 pounds from the Davidson side into Best Disposal dumpsters. Someone asked why we had a competition going between the two counties on who has the most trash. Well, it’s not for bragging rights that’s for sure, but it does us proud knowing that whatever we throw into the dumpsters is no longer in our lake that can be picked up by children, eaten by our pets or driven over while boating. It is also motivating to our volunteers who enjoy the friendly competition!


A dumpster almost full or trash from the Cleansweep!


How did this start and why?

A few years ago, Shane Graham and Barry Childers who grew up on the lake wanted to revive the lake clean sweep from their youth, a community effort that was held last in 1991. The two men, now business owners, have personal experience with items floating along the shoreline and ending up in desolate coves or homeowners’ properties. High Rock Lake is the second largest lake in North Carolina, with more than 300 miles of shoreline; the lake feeds into Badin and Tillery, respectively. The High Rock dam catches most of the larger debris which could remain in High Rock Lake, but there needs to be more of a community effort to remove random debris floating on the lake, from footballs and beverage cans, to flip flops and pieces of docks.


This event would not be possible without community support.


“This year’s event attained sponsorship from Cube Hydro, Reynolds American, Domino’s Pizza Lexington, High Rock Lake Association, Childress Marine Construction, Uwharrie Real Estate, Yadkin River Keeper, SafeCo Insurance, and Best Disposal. Sponsors are needed to underwrite the expenses of the year-round initiative. We would love more volunteers, as more hands mean less trash in our lake, but as we know Coronavirus in 2020 has deterred lots of plans,” said Graham. “We are already building out our plans for 2021 and the date will be the third Saturday that month, September 18,” continued Graham.


Social Distancing While Outside

With social distancing parameters in place due to COVID-19, volunteers were encouraged to stay with their immediate family on their boats. Rowan County’s side of the lake benefitted from more than 164 service hours from Boy Scout Troops 443, 324, and 328 participating as well as Packs 443, 306, 328 and 324.


Members of a Boy Scout Troop helping pick up trash along the shore line.


“This is an educational opportunity for our Boy Scouts. Why is conservation so important? The annual Cleansweep gives the scouts a hands-on service project that the whole family can participate in,” said Ann Barber, Troop Leader and lead coordinator. “Having these future leaders see the different types of trash and how it can be absorbed into the land shows them that they need to be part of the solution, as well as respecting and appreciating the outdoors. Our motto in camping is ‘Leave no trace’.”

One of the best comments that I heard from one of the scouts was, “I didn’t know we could do this,” recalled Barber. ‘This’ meant being one individual making contribution to the betterment for our environment. The scouts celebrated their contribution to clean waterways with pizza and Cheerwine for lunch, all socially distanced near the shoreline.


Special Guests

I invited The Salisbury Post to come out and experience our lake community effort. Josh Bergeron was so gracious in not only assigning Ben Stansell to the weekend job but encouraged him to really dig in – literally. I took that as an opportunity to place Ben onto Barry’s barge and he really got a firsthand view of what comes into the lake from upstream, off the highway, and people’s back yards.

Edgar Miller, executive director of Yadkin Riverkeeper noted, “Despite the limited volunteer participation due to the pandemic, we still had more than 50 volunteers participate on the Davidson County side, joining the volunteers working Rowan County  and we’re building a strong foundation not only for future HRL Clean Sweep events, but also more community engagement year round on keeping our lakes and the river trash free.”


So many great volunteers showed up to help this year!


The Yadkin Riverkeeper even organized a group of kayakers to paddle into the various coves on the Davidson County side for additional access into smaller areas that may hold debris.


Again, where does that big stuff come from?

In speaking with one of the volunteers, he mentioned he actually saw a pick-up truck traveling down Providence Church Road, over the Goodman Lake Bridge and casually throw out a trash bag as he crossed the bridge into the water! By the way, the Rowan recycling facility aka dump is just another mile up that same road – and it was open at that time.

For those that use the lake for fishing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, and general boating, and have never thought about picking up trash, please reconsider. This lake is for all of us to enjoy, including you and your families. Why wouldn’t you like it to be there safe and clean for generations to come?


My Two Cents Worth

To all of you that volunteered for the 3rd annual HRLCleanSweep – thank you! I even heard about a lone fisherman who was unaware of the lake clean-up activity and when introduced to a volunteer agreed to collect a bag of trash in the area where he was fishing. Kudos to you!

Volunteers took their boats out to gather floating trash on the lake.


I hope to see you all out on the lake! From a distance…and without anything flying off your boat into the lake.


I would love to hear from you on what your favorite lake activity is, or someone that you would like me to feature in 2020. Please email me at highrock@YourRowan.com


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