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Spring Sweep Beautifies Parkway for Tourist Season

By Megan Northcote

April 23, 2012. Wearing neon yellow vests, six volunteers from Appalachian State University’s Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway chapter cleaned over 25 miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway for the first annual Spring Sweep event held last Saturday morning between 10 a.m. and noon.

In honor of Earth Day, these student volunteers met at Julian Price Park and picked up trash at 24 Parkway overlooks starting at Grand View overlook at milepost 281.4 and going to Grandfather Mountain Overlook Parking at milepost 307.4.

Heather Paige Preston, ASU’s Friends’ chapter founder and advisor, developed the idea for a Spring Sweep as an opportunity for like-minded service organizations on campus at ASU to come together and beautify the Parkway. 

Colby Grier, a senior communication disorders major and member of Circle K International at ASU, said she really felt like she made a difference by giving a couple hours of her time to volunteer.

“So many times people just buy items, enjoy them for a little while, and then leave them on the ground,” Grier said. “If we hadn’t come along and picked up the trash, who knows how long it’d be there.”

Among the trash collected included cigarette butts, beer bottles, plastic bottles, old tennis shoes, cellophane wrappers, and Styrofoam cups. 

Likewise, Connor Rice, a senior biology major and Friends’ chapter member, said he’s always enjoyed being outside and helping to beautify the Parkway because it makes him feel better by helping out. 

Eventually, Preston envisions the Spring Sweep growing to include enough volunteers from partner organizations to clean the entire Parkway on both sides of the road.

For now, however, Preston is pleased with the impact the Chapter volunteers made at the first event and hopes their increased visibility on the Parkway will make more people think twice before littering one of America’s national treasures.

“The more people who see us, the bigger impact we make,” Preston said. “Change is slow. Changing people’s minds about what to do with their trash and how to properly recycle takes time. But hopefully we can help raise an appreciation for a clean environment.”

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