Tennessee beautification campaign hits the Smokies

Jun. 26, 2013 @ 11:26 PM

As Pickin' Up Tennessee nears its end, one of the statewide litter awareness campaign's last stops was the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Volunteers gathered Tuesday to clean an area of road near Morton's Overlook.

The 3,000-mile, month-long tour, sponsored by Scenic Tennessee with support from Tennessee Department of Transportation and Tennessee State Parks, kicked off June 1.

"The Smokies is grateful that one of the tour stops was to the park," said National Park Service Volunteer Coordinator Christine Hoyer. "We just had a spur cleanup this morning in cooperation with Keep Sevier Beautiful. As you can imagine, litter is a big issue with huge amounts of people visiting from all over the country."

TDOT maintains that over 23 million pounds of litter were collected along 428,441 miles of county, state route, and interstate roadsides throughout the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Consequently, the department recently awarded $1 million in special litter grants, which were funded by the state's soft drink and malt beverage industries. Scenic Tennessee was one of 15 organizations to receive the grant.

"We are passionate about keeping Tennessee roadsides clean," said TDOT beautification coordinator Shawn Bible. "Pickin' up Tennessee plays a vital role in this effort by using volunteerism as well as social media and technology to instill pride in our environment and specifically to help protect and preserve Tennessee's natural beauty."

Scenic Tennessee President Marge Davis said the primary goal of the campaign is to raise litter awareness: "We want to reignite passion and remind people that litter is not a part of the Tennessee landscape. At least it shouldn't be."

Volunteers from Keep Sevier Beautiful were on hand at the event. "It's a great project that promotes statewide awareness of litter, and since it coincides perfectly with out mission, we've been working with Marge and collaborating with Christine to recruit volunteers to the project," said Laura Howard, the group's executive director.

Documentary filmmakers Linda DuVoisin and Dave Porfini from Chattanooga, along with their daughters Harlan, 8, and Jane, 10, have accompanied Pickin' Up Tennessee and volunteers involved in the effort throughout the tour. Artists and bands across the state have also joined the effort, adding entertainment along the way.

The 20 statewide cleanup events will be featured on various social networking and video sites, as footage is linked with images and local stories in an effort to build awareness of environmental stewardship.  A running tally of the amount of recyclable material collected at each cleanup is posted at www.pickuptn.org.

The documentary, which will be released at the end of the year, will offer an in-depth look into the problems associated with litter, DuVoisin said. "There's more than one kind of pickin' in Tennessee, and the music has provided a fantastic soundtrack," she added.

Once the documentary has been released, classroom education modules will be developed featuring children who were involved in the project. "This is our 19th pickup, and it's been a working vacation as well as an educational opportunity for our children," Porfiri said.

"Tennessee State Parks are home to some of the most beautiful places our state has to offer, and we encourage all our visitors to help keep our parks clean," said Tennessee Department of Environment and Conseration Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill.

"We are very pleased to be a part of the Pickin' Up Tennessee outreach effort and appreciate the work that Scenic Tennessee has put forth to spread such a positive message across the state." n

jfrye@themountainpress.com