City parks, county parks, state parks and national parks are wonderful amenities that improve our mental and physical health. But sometimes they need our help to stay at the condition we look for when we visit them.
There are volunteer opportunities that range from litter pickups to trail maintenance happening year-round. Some of them involve food rewards – always a plus! But all of them will feed your sense of pride in our parks and fill you with the satisfaction that you’ve done your part to make our world a little more enjoyable.
Keep Knoxville Beautiful is a great group that covers Knox County with frequent litter pickups, recycling opportunities and awareness events. Whether you need help cleaning up your neighborhood or just have questions about what you can recycle, KKB is there to help.
Executive director Alanna McKissack is constantly forming partnerships with other environmentally focused entities, community groups and businesses to get everyone involved in cleaning and beautifying our patch of East Tennessee, and her upbeat attitude is an inspiration. Join her in action today when KKB helps out at the West View Park cleanup. West View Elementary School is also taking part and will be grilling hot dogs for participants to enjoy after the work is done.
Friends of the Smokies is another fantastic organization, with a focus on our favorite national park. They have two upcoming Smokies Service Days. The first is tomorrow, Sept. 14, at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C., doing flowerbed maintenance just in time for the Mountain Life Festival on Sept. 21. On Saturday, Sept. 21, there’s one at Sugarlands Visitor Center, removing non-native honeysuckle.
On Sunday, Sept. 15, Billy Lush Boards & Brew is hosting the Tennessee River Clean Up & Throw Down 2, paddling out to collect litter from the river as well as sending a land crew to gather trash along the banks of the river and First Creek. They picked up 600 pounds of pollution at their inaugural event and want to double that amount this time. As an incentive, all volunteers 21 and over will receive one beer courtesy of Alliance Brewing Company.
Big Ridge State Park’s monthly Volunteer Trail Day is Saturday, Sept. 21. Tasks include pruning, weed whacking, digging and hanging trail blazes.
Also on Sept. 21 is Clean the Clinch, part of the city of Oak Ridge’s Healthy Waters Program. The cleanup will be done on and around Melton Lake. You can even take your own kayak or canoe to help remove trash from the water.
All of these are dirty jobs, but they’re necessary. And doesn’t it feel good to see the fruits of your labor immediately?
Check out the Outdoor Knoxville calendar for details on joining a project, and encourage your friends and family to tag along. Once the work is done, you’ll enjoy getting out and playing even more.
Carol Evans is executive director of Legacy Parks Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to ensuring that our community enjoys exceptional recreational opportunities, natural beauty and open spaces, and that those assets exist for generations to come.