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Kiwanis Club, Avery High Key Club and Community Members Clean Tufts Park and Wildcat Lake

By Bailey Faulkner

Volunteers from the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk, the Avery High Key Club and the High Country community gathered at Tufts Park and Wildcat Lake last Saturday to prepare the area for its summer activities. One of Banner Elk’s most popular recreation sites, Tufts Park and Wildcat Lake are likely to see an even higher volume of traffic this year with the closing of the Newland public swimming pool for this summer.

The Banner Elk chapter of the Kiwanis Club, a “global organization of volunteers dedicated to improving the world, one child and one community at a time,” selects one project per year to make the Banner Elk community a better place for residents and visitors alike. This year, the group recognized the need for a spring cleaning at the park and lake, which had accumulated a large amount of tree and leaf debris over the past months.

Expecting more visitors at the park and lake this year than in previous years when the Newland public swimming pool also offered a spot to cool off, the Kiwanis Club partnered with students from Avery County High School and other volunteers from the community to create a cleaner and safer environment for swimming, canoeing, fishing, picnicking and hanging out with friends and family. The Avery High Key Club was named a Distinguished Club at the Key Club District Convention in Durham last month, being one of only two of the 241 clubs in the Carolinas to receive the distinction.

Members from each of the groups worked together to collect truckload after truckload of leaves and downed branches from the park and the lake. By the end of the day, the team had removed countless limbs and numerous bags of dead leaves from the area.

Wildcat Lake, located at Hickory Nut Gap Road, is the central feature of Banner Elk’s 13-acre public access facility, which also includes a white sand beach, a swimming pier and a fishing dock. Adjacent to the lake is Tufts Memorial Park, which offers a bath house, picnic tables and three picnic shelters for the community.

Check out the pictures below to see all the work these volunteers completed on Saturday!

(From left to right) Greg Heaton of Grandfather Home for Children, Katherine Andrews of the Avery High Key Club, Shelly Johnson of the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk and Maddi Daniels of the Key Club round up branches at the lake
Avery High Key Club member Bree Nitti rakes leaves in the picnic areas of the park and lake
Avery High Key Club member Maddi Daniels celebrates the last handful of downed branches from the lake
(From left to right) Ann Swinkola (Kiwanis), Kathy Boone (Kiwanis), Tiffany Brocco (Key Club), Luke Crow (community volunteer) and Greg Heaton (Grandfather Home for Children) pose as they gather six truckloads of branches from the lake
Ellie Kitchin and Garrett Dellinger of the Avery High Key Club reposition blown sand at the lake
Bill Sweetser of the First Presbyterian Church in Spruce Pine, NC speaks to members of the Avery High Key Club about leadership tools, and how to use a moral compass
Rev. Dan Brubaker and Shannon Maness of the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk rake and bag leaves at Tufts Park
Kiwanis One Day organizer Ann Swinkola rallies troops for cleanup
Kiwanian Kathy Boone (left) and Avery High Key Club member Tiffany Brocco (right) gather truckloads of fallen branches at the lake and park
Organizer Ann Swinkola picks up downed limbs
Avery High Key Club member Bree Nitti (left) teams up with Kiwanian Shannon Maness to bag leaves and fallen branches