But as he stepped out of his car at Hart’s Ferry Park, Ohatchee Mayor Steve Baswell wasn’t concerned with the view. His focus was on the empty beer cans and fast food wrappers littering the grounds and river.
“It doesn’t matter when you come,” Baswell said. “It always looks like this.”
Cleaning the park, and most of the area around the river that forms the western border of Ohatchee, has become a constant problem, Baswell said. It’s why next week he’s meeting with Alabama Power and the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce to try to organize a regular cleanup day aligned with the power company’s Renew Our Rivers program.
“It’s been something they’ve been doing for years in Etowah County,” Baswell said. “And we’ve always been heavily involved in that, but we’re just trying to get it now in Calhoun County and Ohatchee.”
Renew Our Rivers, now a statewide program which asks volunteers to help clean up Alabama’s bodies of water, actually got its start on the other side of the Coosa River in Gadsden, where annual cleanup events still take place.
“Before Alabama Power got involved, we started cleaning up the river in 1999,” said Hap Bryant, the vice-president of the Neely Henry Lake Association. “I can tell you, we don’t clean up nearly as much trash as we used to.”
Bryant said the annual cleanup, which encompasses an entire week, regularly sees more than 100 volunteers help out, many from out of the county.
And many from Ohatchee, Baswell said.
The small-town mayor said having an Ohatchee cleanup day isn’t a competition – the program is a valuable community service, he said – but there is a benefit to the town and Calhoun County with having your name attached to it.
“It’s just more visibility,” Baswell said. “More credit for our portion of it.”
Getting Renew Our Rivers to Ohatchee is just a small piece of getting the town on the map, Baswell said. In recent years, the mayor said he’s made it a mission to become more involved with the County Chamber of Commerce, regularly attend area Metropolitan Planning Organization meetings, and take a greater interest in being part of the larger community.
And cleaning the river is one step in making the county shine.
“It’s not just the water, it’s the roads too,” Baswell said. “We want to do an Ohatchee cleanup day, and even a Calhoun County clean-up day. Just get rid of all the trash and keep it that way.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.