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Lake litter is a growing sanitary, eyesore problem

Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:59 PM

There have been recent news reports about the growing problem of litter on Percy Priest Lake. The situation is just as bad in some areas on Old Hickory Lake.

Both urban lakes are favorites with summertime boaters and other recreational users, and both are increasingly congested.

Percy Priest, where islands and lakeshores are often used as picnic areas and overnight camping, is being turned into a garbage dump. Plastic bags full of trash are left behind, or the garbage and trash is strewn on the ground.

Because much of the Priest shoreline is owned and controlled by the Corps of Engineers, public access is virtually unlimited, and policing the vast area is difficult.

On Old Hickory Lake, where most of the lakeside property is privately owned, there are not as many public camping and picnicking opportunities. There, much of the trash and garbage is strewn around boat ramps and access areas, or tossed overboard by boaters. The surface of some coves is completely covered with floating trash and litter.

As was noted here back in the spring, littering in parks and other recreational areas seems to be getting worse. Trash, ranging from plastic bottles to cardboard fast-food containers and discarded diapers, is scattered along hiking trails and in parking lots.

Often the litter is thrown on the ground a few steps away from a trash can. That's inexcusable. If they can carry the stuff in, there's no excuse not to carry it out.

It's pure laziness -- combined with a utter lack of regard for the environment,

It is not just a matter of esthetics, of having a pristine outdoors site ruined by heaps of garbage and litter. The situation has become so bad that it's also a matter of safety. Some of the garbage heaps are so profuse that they represent health hazards. Also, broken bottles and other glass make walking in the area dangerous.

Bacterial garbage pollutes the water and lakeshore, and non-bio-degradable material can be hazards for boaters, swimmers and wildlife. Such litter is not just an eyesore, it's unsafe and unsanitary.

It's hard to believe that the people who obviously enjoy the outdoors -- boaters, campers, hikers, picnickers -- are also the slobs who spoil it.

I realize that the Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are understaffed and spread thin. And litter-bugs are tough to catch in the act -- they tend to dump and run.

But the Corps and the TWRA could do a better job of reminding the public that littering is against the law, and start cracking down on offenders. They need to get serious about an increasingly-serious problem.

When a slob is caught -- whether it's a party boat leaving behind mounds of trash and garbage at a campsite, or a hiker tossing a plastic bottle into the weeds -- make an example of them.

A hefty fine and/or a few weekends of court-mandated cleanup duty would get their attention -- and send a warning to other litter-slobs.

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