Kids learn about trash at Annual Fishing Fiesta

The second annual Fishing Fiesta sponsored by NC Wildlife Resources Commission and NC State Parks was a grand success on Sat. Kids visited stations set up at Jordan Lake’s White Oak Recreation Area where various organizations talked about water safety, species of fish and birds, careers in nature, knot tying, casting, cooking fish, protecting our water and land, and much more. Fishing rods were loaned out and instructors gave tips on how to fish.

IMG_20170408_105224497_HDRThe kids received a stamp on their Fiesta Quest sheet at each station . Those getting a stamp from all stations received a free tackle box.

Business was steady at our station where we explained the trash problem and the great work of our volunteers.

IMG_20170408_131705759Though not needed for a stamp, about 20 kids and some parents went on the Trash Treasure Hunt with us, walking to a nearby section of shoreline. The lucky kid who found the spray bottle bottle marked as the Treasure won a full-day rental of a kayak or canoe donated by Frog Hollow Outdoors.

IMG_20170408_133159281_HDRSeveral bags were filled in 15 minutes before return to Chatham County’s Solid Waste & Recycling station where the trash was spread out on a tarp and kids learned what to recycle.

The day ended with award of many great raffle items and enjoyable Latino music donated by the Flor Y Canto band.

Volunteers in Annual Spring Trash Cleanup restore 2 mi. of shoreline

The arrival of a beautiful morning on March 25th was a great relief to us!  We had to cancel our Fall Trash Cleanup because of Hurricane Matthew.  And the arrival of 150 energetic volunteers was just as beautiful! We thank especially our wonderful boaters who buzzed around the lake ferrying volunteers and hauling trash, recyclables and tires to the Corps of Engineers headquarters for drop off .

Revised Boat Landing Sites

Volunteers divide up to tackle 6 Tracks

About 2 miles of shoreline were restored to pristine condition. This section had never before been targeted because of the complex logistics. Volunteers had to first drive to a remote Jordan State Park service road, walk down a steep hill to a tiny cove and load onto boats.

Three of the five Trash Treasure Hunt items were found and redeemed for great prizes from REI, Great Outdoor Provision Company and the Pittsboro Roadhouse.

volunteers waiting for ferry

Volunteers waiting for ferry to trash sites

Jon Bannerman of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works closely with us throughout the year in our official partnership with the Corps. He was one our pontoon boat operators for this event and also a great help in making our experiment with Chatham County’s new single stream recycling program a success.

Some of our volunteers were assigned to collect recyclables by turning their orange DOT bags inside out to reveal the blue side. The blue bags were brought back to the Corps dock by our boats along with trash bags and tires. Corps staff and volunteers emptied each bag into a special recycle container provided by Chatham County.

ferry of volunteers

3 pontoon boats and several skiffs transport volunteers & haul trash

Our volunteers removed 153 bags of trash, 30 bags of recyclables and 52 tires in 2 hours. We hope to continue the recyclable program in future events. Thanks to everyone involved!

2016 Ends Optimistically

img_20161022_122212719_hdrAs the year ends, here are few recent highlights. We received $1,000 from Cary MacGregor and Apex Sunrise Rotary Clubs to spend on much needed supplies such as lots of new gloves, trash grabbers and attractive signs and banners. These two groups saw the value in our work when they volunteered in October for a trash cleanup.

We’re reaching out to youth not just to help remove trash but to raise public awareness among the next generation.




2016-10-16_waco_jordan_cleanup This Fall we hosted a wonderful group of 22 YMCA Y Guides from the Waco Tribe. These are Dads bringing their young daughters or sons to the lake to pick up trash .



dec-2016In mid-December, 13 students from the AP Environmental Science class taught by Carl Rush at Green Hope High tackled a huge load of trash on Wilderness Island brought by Hurricane Matthew. On a very chilly morning, they removed 37 bags of trash and 4 tires.

The Marine Conservation Club at Enloe High will join our Adopt-A-Shoreline Program in 2017. They will be co-assignmed to the WRC Fishing Access at Bells Church, a chronic, badly littered area.  The residents and staff at Galloway Ridge is another new group that will share this site assignment.

The Sudduth Family will take over adoption of the the westerly set of boat ramps at WRC Farrington Point Access.

Hurricane Matthew forced us to cancel our big Annual Fall Trash Cleanup in October for which 150 volunteers were expected. But even without them, we had 756, 75 more than 2015. Our biggest turnout with no rainouts was 910 in 2013.

The yearly number of tires removed has sharply declined since 2013. This is because of our hard work in catching up with the legacy of tires accumulated since 1982 when the lake was filled. However, tires still do continue to arrive from the watershed with each big rainfall event.

The sites in our Adopt-A-Shoreline and Adopt-A-Feeder Stream Programs have grown to 20 with two just being added.

To date, nearly 4,900 volunteers have participated in 270 cleanup events. They’ve removed 12,189 bags of trash and 3,949 tires.

Thanks to all for another great year of volunteering!

Local Rotary Clubs At Work

img_20161022_112840460The Cary MacGregor and Apex Sunrise Rotary Clubs sponsored a fine morning of community service at the lake on Sat., Oct. 22. Several members of our and Ranger Jon Bannerman of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Jordan Dam joined them.

img_20161022_122212719_hdrTrue to Rotary Club motto of “Service Above Self”, 30 bags of trash and 3 tires were removed in 2 hours of work. The group cleaned along the shoreline of the far side of dam shown in the background of first photo. That work went so fast that we moved them over to a section of Kirks Creek off Jordan Dam Rd. where lots of trash accumulated after Hurricane Matthew.

A celebration picnic was provided by the Rotary Clubs at the Visitor Assistance Center of the Corps. This was perfect spot to appreciate the importance of our mission in preserving the beauty of the lake.

GlaxoSmithKline Returns for 7th Community Service

img_20161021_110850015On Oct. 21, 13 volunteers from GlaxoSmithKline spent their Orange Day of Community Service, a corporate wide program, with us for the 7th year! They cleared the 35 bags of trash and 2 tires from the same area they cleaned last fall. Much of the new trash was brought by the flushing action of Hurricane Matthew in the watershed. As proof of how far trash is carried, a drinking cup imprinted with “Greensboro Grasshoppers” , the minor league baseball team, was picked up.

img_20161021_115753297_hdrAt the end of the event, the GSK group leader, Jack DeCicco, asked participants to complete the following sentence: I volunteer because…

The responses were wonderful. One in particular resonates with our concern for educating the next generation. This volunteer wrote “I want to be a role model for my kids”

Thanks GSK for your great work once again!

Biogen Idec Returns for 4th Community Service

biogen-idec-group-photoBiogen Idec’s We Care Deeply community service with CJL took place in late Sept. This was the 4th year of participation with us. Knowing employees have a choice of doing service on that day from among many causes, we are grateful that 43 of them selected CJL! Some of them had also come in previous years.

The target area was a section of shoreline on the east side of the lake just north of the Corps of Engineers’ spillway. It is just about opposite where the Haw River flow enters the lake. That means the site falls victim to a huge trash load with every rainfall.

2016-biogen-care-deeply-day_-37We divided the group into 3 tracks with CJL leaders for each. Thank you, David Piet and David Field, for volunteering as leaders.




2016-biogen-care-deeply-day_-35In just 2 hours, these Biogen Idec volunteers had removed 90 very full bags of trash and 1 tire and helped haul them via the Corps of Engineers pontoon boat to a nearby dumpster.

Chatham County Leaders Aboard Pontoon Boat

img_20161004_102856173_hdr-1Encouraged by success of our first Public Awareness Pontoon Boat Tour last Fall with Durham County leaders aboard, we invited Chatham County participants for our second tour. Those aboard on the morning of Oct. 4 were Diana Hale and Karen Howard from Chatham County’s Board of Commissioners; John Bonitz, Town of Pittsboro Commissioner; Rene Pascal and Dan LaMontagne, Chatham County Manager and Assistant Manager, respectively; Maria Parker-Lewis, member of Pittsboro Business Assoc. and Main St. Pittsboro; Greg Lewis, member of Pittsboro Business Association and Chatham Economic Development Corp.; Ilana Dubester, Hispanic Liaison, Siler City; Margart Sands, Outreach Coordinator, Triangle Land Conservancy; and Nick Cross, REI Outdoor Programs Manager, Central North Carolina.

Captain Don Watkins of Triangle Boat Tours motored us from Vista Point to Jordan Dam. Along the way, the participants had wonderful looks at bald eagles, great blue heron and comorants in a setting undisturbed by a single house on the shoreline. But then we hopped off the boat to see an example of a “trashline” winding through the woods, impossible to see from the water.

img_20161004_101029020As happened in our Durham County Tour, the participants were eager to pick up trash. They filled two bags in just five minutes.

We then pulled into a quiet cove (last photo) to sit for a brainstorming session on Chatham County could help us raise public awareness.

img_20161004_111153974 Lots of great suggestions were offered including reach out to Chatham public schools; county-level messaging; invitations to reporters to view trash after storms like we just had and to be on board our next pontoon boat tour; reach out to upstream counties for our Adopt-A-Feeder Stream program; and appeal to shoreline fishermen with emotion grabbing photo of bird entangled in line imprinted on large sign.

Public Awareness Day: Ebenezer Church and Seaforth Beach

Raising raise public awareness of the trash problem is an important part of my summer internship program.  Clean Jordan Lake’s trash cleanups will never end unless the public gets behind the idea of trash prevention.  

We met with staff at the Jordan Lake State Recreation Area to explain our idea of setting up a public awareness display at a couple of their popular beaches on a weekend.  Permission was granted and plans made to be at Ebenezer Church Beach and Seaforth Beach on July 16th.

The center attraction in our display was a mini-pontoon trash barge built by local high school students from plastic bottles removed from the shoreline in a recent cleanup.  The same REI grant that provides my summer internship was used to print flyers and large signs which explain the causes of trash, the importance of removing trash, and how people can volunteer with Clean Jordan Lake.


The goal of REI is to enrich recreational experience at local places like Jordan lake.  Partnering with Clean Jordan Lake will help produce a cleaner shoreline and emphasize community involvement for the benefit of everyone.

When July 16th rolled around, I set up the display at our first location, Ebenezer Church.


As people walked by to use the restroom, they could come over and see our display. Several adults stopped to talk to me at Ebenezer. Two women thanked Clean Jordan Lake and explained how they currently support us and volunteer with their clubs. One man, an avid explorer of the outdoors, told me he “always picks up his mess” during his adventures. After two hours, I took down the display and moved over to Seaforth.


There was a larger crowd at Seaforth, providing an unique array of responses and questions. Some people assumed I was a Park Ranger, asking me for directions and even giving me lost car keys. A kind woman took multiple flyers and said she would hand them out to leaders in her organization. One man commented that there needed to be more trash cans on the beach because “people are too lazy to carry their trash back with them”. A State Park Ranger drove by and asked if he could take a dinosaur from our trash barge to add to his collection. His collection consisted of a dozen salvaged toys from the beach that he had picked up on the job.


After the two hour shift I broke camp and headed back to the storage unit. I was glad that people had stopped to read our signs and talk. Hopefully it helped them to think about their roles as visitors to the lake’s beautiful habitats.


Luke Heffernan, Summer Intern for Clean Jordan Lake, supported by grant from REI

Trash Spots and Test Plots: CJL Summer Intern

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The heat of the day finds its way through the trees, pushing warmly on my back. I stand up and place an empty Sprite bottle into the orange trash bag in my left hand. Waving my stick for spiderwebs, I advance towards the tire lying in front of me. It has been filled with dirt and small plants.

Moving quickly, I reach into the dirt and flip the tire over. My heart jumps and I yell out as a spider scurries away, with a body the size of a grape. I am feeling extra-sensitive to creepy crawlers in my thirsty and overheated daze. Looking around at the trees I see the four orange pieces of tape marking the rectangle I have just cleared of trash.

After the next significant rainfall, Clean Jordan Lake will send someone back to measure the amount of new trash. This provides another useful way to measure the trash accumulation rate. The data will also be helpful when considering the design of a possible trash trap upstream. A trash trap on the Haw River would prevent the bulk of the trash from reaching the lake, as most of it comes from the watershed. Knowing the accumulation rate helps approximate the necessary capacity for one of these potential devices.


My first trash pickup was done at Stinking Creek, which was full of those large spiders and also a very difficult place to navigate. I even began picking up trash at the wrong spot and had to conduct another pickup in the correct location.  Thankfully I had Dr.DiGiano’s GPS to follow the waypoints in and safely out of the forest.

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White Refrigerator In Background, found at Wilderness Island

The next day, I set up trash test plots at two different spots on Wilderness Island and one plot on New Hope Overlook. These locations are best reached by kayak. The weather was gorgeous and I enjoyed several scenic rides across the water. Each test plot was 200-500 sq ft. and usually held enough trash for two full bags.

I found various interesting items, ranging from the never-ending supply of discarded bottles to old lacrosse balls and odd toys. The winner for largest item was a rusty refrigerator frame that had somehow made its way onto Wilderness Island despite being heavy and full of holes.  Most likely, it arrived during the heavy rains of December and January because this same area had been cleared of trash by CJL volunteers in September 2015.  

When I finally strapped the kayak to the roof of my car, the sun was already ducking behind the trees. I felt accomplished and had learned a bit about patience and fortitude during my adventures. Eight more bags of trash left the shoreline of Jordan Lake, with the goal of preventing thousands more.


Luke Heffernan,  Summer Intern for Clean Jordan Lake, supported by grant from REI

Trash and Treasure: First Impressions of CJL Intern

Hi, my name is Luke Heffernan and I am a summer intern at Clean Jordan Lake. I am an undergraduate student in the business school at University of Texas and was given the opportunity to intern thanks to a grant given to CJL from REI. Two weeks ago I left the humid air of Houston, Texas and arrived in the beautiful North Carolina sunshine. My grandpa and I went sailing at Jordan Lake the next day, marveling at the gorgeous morning weather and the birds swooping into the waves to catch their breakfast.


Great Blue Heron entangled in fishing line in tree.

Then came my wake up call. Dr.DiGiano and I embarked on a hike near Stinking Creek to survey the trash lines; I was astounded. When I first had heard about picking up trash off the shorelines, I thought of water bottles and food wrappers. Much to my surprise, that’s only what we wish it was. Densely strewn throughout the woods was a literal (or should we say litter-al) line of trash that had been pushed back from the shore by rising water levels. The majority of the debris had found its way down the Haw River from a watershed of over 1,400 sq miles. The watershed feeds into the river which feeds into Jordan Lake, explaining the diversity of items we saw lying there in the wildlife. There was everything you could name — tires and lighters, jackets and backpacks, butane and bottles. Due to an unusually high water level back in January, the trash line reached far into the woods, invisible from the water.

Later in the week, we observed trash along the shores of various coves and islands. These are places where families like to stop for lunch in kayaks and small fishing boats, enjoying the remote immersion in nature. One couple we talked to had found a small stretch of beach where they could relax and play with their son in the water. They had seen trash around the area, but since that beach was relatively clean, they chose it for their day’s activities (little did they know that Clean Jordan Lake recently held a cleanup on that shoreline!). While it is not always fun seeing what ends up on the lake, it is assuring to see what the volunteering efforts have accomplished. The cleanups have cleared out great recreational areas and wildlife habitats along the shorelines. We enjoyed a pleasant kayak paddle through these areas, silently marveling at the beauty of Jordan Lake.