Keeping DeGray Lake Beautiful

By Joel Phelps | The Arkadelphian

Anyone who has ever laid eyes on DeGray Lake has seen its pristine, calm waters dotted hither and yon with an array of boats against a backdrop of an awe-inspiring sunset. It’s a clean lake, and its shoreline is made immaculate once a year by a group of volunteers that, unfortunately, is dwindling in numbers.

“Any group we can get, any human we can get would be awesome.”

— Russ Johnson, KDLB

For most of the 50 years since DeGray Lake was built, this group of volunteers has set out each fall with one common goal: Keeping DeGray Lake Beautiful. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was typical to have a group of some 400 people gather for the shoreline cleanup. Since then, however, that number has been sliced in half.

“We need people,” KDLB committee member Russ Johnson told the Arkadelphia Lions Club during its Aug. 18 meeting. “Any college group we can get, any group we can get, any human we can get would be awesome.” Another big hit to the volunteer numbers was the loss of Henderson State University’s biology department, which was among the programs the school cut earlier this year.

Russ Johnson addresses members of Arkadelphia Lions Club about the Keeping DeGray Lake Beautiful volunteer group. | The Arkadelphian/Joel Phelps

On average, the KDLB volunteers pick up about 2 tons of trash each year from the lake’s 225 miles of shoreline. In 2021 there were slightly more than 250 volunteers picked up 2,000 pounds of trash.

This year’s cleanup day marks the 44th annual event and is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17, from 9 a.m. until noon. The group is seeking anyone who cares about public lands, whether it’s a Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, school groups, employee groups, fishing clubs, scuba clubs, church groups or individuals. For more information about event registration, visit KDLB’s website.

It’s not all trash pickup that KDLB does. The organization is also responsible for having spearheaded the Sunset Trail (#5 on the list) on Lower Lake, as well as maintaining the Iron Mountain Trail System, Johnson said. KDLB is responsible for the construction of an ADA-compliant pier used to host fishing derbies for veterans and disabled citizens, and takes disabled citizens on waterfowl hunts each duck season.

“Getting volunteers [for the clean up day] is my biggest concern this year,” Johnson said. Volunteers will be treated to free lunch and prizes, donated by local merchants, following the clean up event.

Those wishing to participate are urged to act quickly by calling Johnson at 501-256-4262 or Jeffrey Arthur at 501-815-2792. Both can also be reached by email at russjohnson26@yahoo.com or Jeffrey.S.Arthur@usace.army.mil.

Categories: Outdoors

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