GATLINBURG (WATE) – Gatlinburg kicked off Earth Week Tuesday with litter pickup on The Spur. Dozens of volunteers showed up, despite the rain, to pick up trash on the five mile stretch of road inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
More than 11 million people drive that road into Gatlinburg every year. It is small piece of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but one of the first things those millions of people see as they head into the mountains, so keeping it clean is an important task.
“It creates a great perception for people entering the park or entering the city of Gatlinburg to see a nice clean parkway,” said GSMNP Chief Ranger Steve Kloster.
Nine teams made up of 44 volunteers scattered on the shoulders to pick up anything that did not belong.
“We have this great place and this beautiful place, and it almost is disrespectful for someone to throw something out and not just wait until the next stop to where they can throw it in the trash can,” said Jessica Webb, part of a group of volunteers from the Hilton Garden Inn.
It is the eighth year the city has teamed up with businesses, the nonprofit Keep Sevier Beautfiul, and the national park to clear the spur.
“It’s amazing how many people in this area like to come out and make sure that Sevier County is litter free,” said Lisa Bryant, executive director of Keep Sevier Beautiful.
All ages were out there learning the importance of cleaning up the community.
“To bring them out like this and have them value these lands and value what it is to have a clean environment is huge to start at a young age,” Kloster said.
Park rangers said across the more than 250 miles of roads, they spend more than $60,000 a year picking up litter. They spend more than $10,000 on The Spur alone.
“We spend a lot of money and man hours picking up litter along our roadways so events like this are a huge help,” Kloster said.
They are keeping Sevier County and the national park beautiful one piece of trash at a time.
“We’re just here to make it a little bit better and teach our community and our visitors what they can do to help as well,” Webb said.
Gatlinburg has several more Earth Week events happening. Wednesday is E-Waste Recycling Day. They will collect and properly dispose of outdated and unused electronic devices like unwanted computers, small electronics, and ink cartridges. You can drop those off at the Events Office located at 207 Cherokee Orchard Road from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Thursday is the 10th annual Earth Day Festival. It will be held along the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg in the afternoon.
Friday the Earth Day 5K run/walk will take place in downtown at 10:00 p.m.