Early Friday morning before work, Campbell Law School professor Roger Manus was kayaking with a friend on Lake Johnson in West Raleigh.
“My friend wanted to go to the other side,” Manus said. “I told him no, because it was too dirty.”
As Manus was leaving the lake, he noticed a flier just outside the pier near the park’s entrance. The flier was seeking volunteers the next day to help clean the lake.
Manus, 62, and his son, Jacob Manus, 31, returned to the lake Saturday morning to be among the more than 80 volunteers participating in the cleanup of the lake at 1420 Avent Ferry Road. The effort was sponsored by North Carolina Big Sweep, a nonprofit group dedicated to cleaning the state’s waterways, and the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.’s Canoes for a Cause campaign.
“Our mission is a litter-free environment,” said Sheila Jones, coordinator of the Wake County chapter of Big Sweep.
Roger Manus and son certainly did their part. The two men tethered their canoe on the lake’s shore early Saturday afternoon and emerged partially wet from the craft carrying transparent and black-colored bags, along with long plastic sticks called grabbers, used to clamp down on trash littering the lake.
Manus, a short, wiry man with a salt-and-pepper beard and sideburns, peeled off his gloves while explaining that the clear bags were filled with recyclable materials pulled out of the lake, and the black bags were used for other litter.
The law professor was slightly perplexed by both the volume of trash along the lake’s shoreline and the items found – a car tire, lots of Styrofoam and even more plastic.
“Oh, and a fair number of shoes,” Manus said. “We did wonder – why in the world are people’s shoes out here in the lake?”
Jones, the event coordinator, said the volunteers were families, residents who live near the lake, joggers, bikers, high school students earning community service hours and even a couple of Cub Scouts.
The volunteers focused their efforts Saturday on the western side of the lake, where stormwater had deposited a fair amount of litter.
Jones pointed out that this is the second year the event has been held in Raleigh. Last year, the campaign, again in tandem with Canoes for a Cause, cleaned up Lake Wheeler. The cleanup expanded this year to include Lake Wiley near the Catawba River in Charlotte and Sugar Loaf Island near the waterfront in Morehead City, both also on Saturday.
Charles Miller, a retired Progress Energy engineer and Big Sweep board member, pointed out the many compelling reasons to clean the waterways.
“One of the main reasons is it looks bad,” he said. “And it’s hazardous to wildlife who mistake it for food.”
Jones agreed, saying that wildlife can get tangled up in tossed-away fishing line and that sea turtles mistake some litter for food.
“Grocery bags kind of look like a translucent jellyfish to a sea turtle,” she said.
Miller noted that lake litter sometimes has another downside: social deterioration.
“It can lead to graffiti. It can lead to vandalism, and it can lead to crime,” he said.
Jones said littering can ultimately affect an entire community’s well-being.
“No one wants to live in a community or start a business where there’s litter,” she said. “No one wants to vacation where it looks like people are failing to take care of the environment.”
A number of volunteers were employed by Mims Distributing, a beer distributor with headquarters on Ebenezer Church Road in northwest Raleigh.
Josh McCullough, 30, of Durham, Jacob Smith, 30, of Raleigh, and Scott Apicella, 37, of Apex, all work in sales for the company.
“There’s beer at the end of the trail, so we all signed up for a great cause,” McCullough said jokingly.
The trio, along Apicella’s toddler son, Ethan, all eschewed trolling the water and opted to pick up litter at the lake’s edge.
“Lots of 20-ounce soda bottles, candy wrappers, beer bottles and empty cans of dip,” Apicella answered when asked about the items that filled his bags. “People are irresponsible when they’re drinking. I saw more alcohol bottles than soda bottles.”
Music and a meal
The volunteers at the end were treated with lunch and music by Spencer Mobley and Julie Elkins, who played guitar, mandolin and banjo while serving up a hearty helping of country and bluegrass tunes. A breeze that cooled the workers was complemented by a beverage station that served cool water and a variety of Leinenkugel beers.
A sense of camaraderie was apparent among the group that settled on the pier.
“This is really great to come out and clean up with them,” said Roger MacKay, vice president of sales with Mims Distributing, which partnered with the Leinenkugel brewers.
The Leinenkugel Brewing Co. is based in Chippewa Falls, Wis. One of the company’s founders, John Leinenkugel, was aboard one of the canoes Saturday.
The brewery executive in a short speech said his company has a commercial interest in preserving water quality.
“Clean water is critical to brewing great beer,” he said.