A dead deer, and it later turned out a coyote too, were in the area near the New Armuchee Baptist Church cemetery — and had been there for a little while.
Looking down into a ravine near Armuchee Creek, the 40 or so teens commented about the tires, computer monitors, furniture and mattreses that could be seen in the fall leaves that had been thrown out by passers-by.
“Today you’re going to see some stuff that members of the National Honor Society wouldn’t have done,” Mary Hardin Thornton, the director of Keep Rome-Floyd Beautiful, told them.
“We’ve got to clean it up. We’ve got to make it right,” Hardin Thornton said.
She gestured toward the cemetery behind her.
“It degrades the experience and sacredness of this place.”
With a few jokes and wry comments about the aroma, students gathered gloves and set to work.
The cleanup was in conjunction with the statewide Rivers Alive wetlands cleanup.
Elizabeth Clonts, a 16-year-old junior at Armuchee High School, came up with the idea of the project and helped to communicate with Keep Rome-Floyd Beautiful to coordinate the effort.
Thornton is her aunt and her family regularly participates in cleanups around the county.
“I never get to go though. I always have dance recitals, so this is the first time,” Clonts said.
Along with the importance of the cleanup itself, Clonts said coordinating the project was also a learning experience.
“I learned the importance of groups who care about Rome and the importance of connecting those groups,” Clonts said.
A group effort, she said, can accomplish more than a series of isolated projects.
Climbing down a steep ravine, students gathered large tires, rolls of barbed wire, discarded shingles, computer parts, diapers and furniture.
With his rubber boots on, Armuchee sophomore Zane Holcomb, 16, said he was hoping for a wet day but the boots did just as well when toting trash back to the street.
He’s participated in cleanups before with Trout Unlimited around John’s Creek in northern Floyd County and said the idea of cleaning up wetlands was something his dad taught him.
“The whole point of it is to keep it for the next generation so they can keep doing the same things we love now,” Holcomb said.
More information about the statewide Rivers Alive project is available at www.riversalive.org.