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What if?

We all wonder from time to time what life might look like if certain things were different or didn’t exist.

As Russell Lands CEO Tom Lamberth and I walked along Highway 63 picking up plastic bottles, aluminum cans, empty cigarette packs, Styrofoam cups and fast food containers, Tom asked, “What would this road look like if we didn’t remove the trash?”

Tom can ask this because he has been a volunteer participant in many, many organized and impromptu cleanups of Highway 63 as well as many other heavily traveled roadsides in the Lake Martin community.

More than 15 years ago Tom started a spring and fall Highway 63 cleanup by asking Russell Lands’ associates to participate. The reward for those who volunteered, after spending whatever amount of time it took to clean the highway, was a good lunch and a chance to start the weekend early by taking the remainder of the Friday off.

The story goes the first time this was done there was no remainder of the day available. The cleanup took the major part of the day and several hundred bags of trash and many automobile tires were removed. 

Since that time, the task has gotten a little easier but the miles covered during the cleanup have increased. For the past several years, this environmentally-conscious company has focused on the highway starting at Kowaliga Bridge and ending at Highway 280 in Alexander City, a distance of more than 18 miles.

The event, appropriately called “Orange Shirt Day” because each volunteer is provided a bright orange shirt for visibility, is expertly organized by Robert Gunn who tries to coordinate the spring event to occur before the roadside mowers make the task even more difficult by cutting the trash into hundreds of smaller pieces. The fall event is held in conjunction with the annual Lake Martin Resource Association Renew our Rivers Lake Martin Cleanup held the first weekend each November.

I am extremely grateful Tom and numerous volunteers despise roadside litter and are willing to do something about it. Without their energetic efforts, all of our roadsides and our lake shoreline would look like a trash dump. 

There are many, many examples in our area of what Highway 63 would look like if there were no cleanup efforts. You really can see only a small amount as you pass by at 60 mph. The drainage ditches are full of trash, much of which makes its way to a watershed leading to Lake Martin. Roadside litter is a fact of life and even though it is against the law and violators can be fined up to $1,000, you seldom — if ever — see this happen. The only way to keep our roadsides cleaned of unsightly litter is to pick it up and we can do much better if more companies and individuals would get involved.

Highway 63 from 280 to Kowaliga Bridge is an extremely important corridor to Lake Martin and thanks to Ben Russell’s roadside beautification project, that is well underway, and with the litter removal efforts by Russell Lands and volunteers, visitors and potential investors will experience the pride that fills the hearts of all who love Lake Martin.

You can help. Get involved.

John Thompson is president of Lake Martin Resource Association and advocate for area cleanups.