HELEN — The Helen Planning, Design and Review Board (PDRB) wants to help the city find ways to combat litter in the Chattahoochee River.
The river, which runs from the headwaters through the center of town and into the county, is a major attractant for tubing, trout fishing, and those who simply want to relax along its banks.
Soon, the new Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail will be open along the river, and Helen officials don't want visitors to the city to see trash in and along the waterway.
Chris Williams, owner of Cowboys & Angels Restaurant & Bar in downtown Helen, serves on the PDRB. Tuesday afternoon, he told members of the Helen City Commission of the PDRB’s desire to help city leaders find a solution to the littering problem.
While much of the pollution, such as flip-flops and water bottles, is attributed to tubers, a large amount of Styrofoam cups and containers, as well as other items, make their way through the city in the river’s current.
“At the end of the last meeting, we went over awareness, environmental education for the city of Helen and hopefully White County,” Williams said. “Over the last week, I have contacted Keep America Beautiful and Keep Georgia Beautiful. There’s a couple of different ways that we can partner up with these organizations to better our community, better our environment and to give us some more help on keeping things clean.”
Williams explained that there is an affiliate program that city government can partner with and help fund.
“Which, in return, we get $34 of benefits for every $1 that we spend, from education to recycling barrels to resources and materials,” Williams said. “There’s no minimum investment for the city so as far as I understand, at least to this point, we can come up with whatever money we want to allot toward it.”
City Manager Jerry Elkins pointed out that the city participated for several years, and that the White County Chamber of Commerce still does participate in Keep Georgia Beautiful. The challenge, he said, was in coordinating volunteers for organized cleanup efforts.
“It usually wound up with me, the city commissioners, the public works all picking up trash,” Elkins said. “Now, we do our best to make a round every week or two and pick all the litter up.”
Williams pointed out that government grants are available to offset expenses if the city decides to affiliate with Keep Georgia Beautiful.
“In the past, I think things haven’t worked, but we’ve got a lot of new faces in town, a lot of young faces, so hopefully people will get on board, especially if we can communicate to them what benefit it brings to Helen and to their business,” Williams said. “I think it would be beneficial and help, especially if we could get into the schools and teach kids to be environmentally aware, to pick up after themselves, pack things out, etc.”
Williams said he sees paid affiliation as a positive, because it provides more benefits than simply being a participant.
“Your concerns are duly noted,” Mayor Jeff Ash told Williams.