Tahlequah volunteers clean up garbage from Lake Tenkiller

Tahlequah volunteers helped clean up hundreds of pounds of trash from Tenkiller Lake today.

Tidy Up Tenkiller began cleaning up debris from the lake in 2018 due to damage from tornadoes and flooding.

It’s their sixth event and Gena McPhail of Tahlequah Tourism says she’s always surprised when she sees the number of dumpsters full at the end of the day.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” McPhail said. “Every time we go out here we always think, ‘Oh my God, we’ve already picked up so much trash, how can there be any more left over? “”

Much of the debris left by the storm is tires and styrofoam. But if you are in the lake long enough, the size of the garbage you can find can be amazing. But McPhail says it’s not even the worst. It’s the trash people leave behind that makes the job harder than it should be.

“It’s total neglect and I think trying to stop it starts with our kids with educating what it can really do for our land,” McPhail said.

This year was the first time they had brought divers to clean underwater.

Carl Jack, one of the divers, said he was happy to be able to combine his love for diving and his love for helping others.

“We are helping the environment,” said Jack. “And I had a blast doing it. Diving is my thing. I can’t wait to do it again and do it in other places as well.”

Jack says he’s also happy to have been able to work with people who care about the community as much as he does.

“Yes, there is a lot of work to be done, but there are a lot of people who are willing to do it… can do it and know how important it is,” said Jack.

The next clean-up is expected to take place in 2022.

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