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May 16, 2014

Cumberland Falls Beautification Day Saturday

CORBIN — Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is in need of volunteers to help clean up litter.

The annual Cumberland Falls Beautification Day will kick off at 9 a.m. Saturday at the gift shop, where volunteers can register, sign waivers, and get trash bags. There will be a hotdog lunch at noon, and children are welcome to help clean up parking lots and lawns at the park. However, cleaning the more remote areas of the park is not recommended for children under 10. The park is asking volunteers to wear boots and bring work gloves.

Participants can go anywhere around the park to pick up garbage. According to Trail Maintenance Director Pam Gibson, the areas with the most trash tend to be in the downriver areas, Trail 9, and and Trail 1. Gibson said volunteers picked up 226 bags in last year's cleanup, and the park averages at least one cleanup every three months. However, this cleanup is the only one open to the public; other cleanups involve park staff and registered volunteers.

"This is a way for people to give back to the park, and we are very grateful for their help," Gibson said. "Our crew is just not enough."

Gibson said every time the Cumberland River floods, more trash is deposited along the bank and recent rains mean the river has swollen and deposited trash along its edges. Gibson said a group from AmeriCorps had recently picked up 115 bags of trash, but it was merely a dent in the park's litter.

"Without Saturday's trash pickup, we will never be able to catch up," Gibson said.

Not only that, but trash pickup becomes more difficult as the warm weather sets in; Gibson said as summer progresses, the increasing amount of vegetation will make trash pickup more difficult and more dangerous. Early cleanup is important for the park.

Gibson said there is a problem with people littering at Cumberland Falls. While the river washes up a lot of trash, that trash tends to be from the ditches along nearby roads. People also tend to litter on trails away from the water.

"I don't think people even realize they're doing it [littering]," Gibson said. "It's an unconscious act."

However, Gibson said this "unconscious act" can damage local plants, wildlife, and even the economy. Crows may get into the garbage and carry it off, spreading the litter. As well as spreading litter, plastic consumed by the crows can cause an obstruction and kill them.

Bears, squirrels, and other foragers also suffer from litter. Once these animals have been fed by humans, Gibson said they stop looking for their own natural food and can starve to death depending on "human handouts." Gibson said the park was removing trash cans to help alleviate this problem, and advised park patrons to simply take their trash home with them.

Litter also damages the area's tourism. Gibson said the area in which Cumberland Falls is situated relies on tourism, and a reduction in income from tourism can damage local economies.

"If we don't have consideration for our own property, they [tourists] don't need to come to it," Gibson said.

Drains clogged by trash can also contribute to the collapse of roadways, which must then be repaired with taxpayers' money. Litter also lasts; some trash, such as foam cups, can take decades to decompose and Gibson said diapers "are forever." She added the park picks up around 100 pounds of dirty diapers per month.

Litter also discourages the growth of many of the rare and unique plant species that grow around Cumberland Falls.

While Saturday is the only day for the public to come and help clean up Cumberland Falls, registered volunteers can pick up trash at any time. Gibson will hand out applications at Saturday's cleanup for volunteers.

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