The Karst Task Force for the southeastern region of the U.S. cooperated with other groups, including Lincoln Memorial University, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and the Cave Research Foundation, to clean up around the springs on the north end of Cumberland Gap on Saturday.
Fifteen volunteers came from throughout Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina to help clean the watershed supply in Cumberland Gap.
The park service checked the area prior to the event to ensure there were no endangered plants that would be damaged or any other resources that might be altered during the cleanup.
Four members of the park service also spent their Saturday volunteering.
The majority of the trash collected on Saturday had been on the site for years. Several old tires and pieces of wood covered in lead paint were among the debris cleared from the site.
Volunteers hope once the site is cleared, maintenance work will be all that is needed to the watershed since the county now has several dumping sites.
SKTF operates on a shoestring budget of less than $1,000 a year.
The biggest expense for these types of cleanup events is renting a dumpster, with costs totaling up to several hundred dollars. The dumpster used for at the Gap Creek cleanup was donated by Mike Russell, solid waste director of Claiborne County.
The official name of the group is the SERA Karst Task Force, but most involved call it SKTF.
SKTF is a non-profit resource organization dedicated to karst conservation and the clean up of cave and karst features through the education of both the public and caving communities.
The group relies solely on the support of the public and caving community, businesses and citizens in the community.
Maureen Handler, of Cavers Paradise, traveled from her home in Sewanee, Tenn., to head up Saturday’s cleanup effort.
Handler has been in the contracting business since 1986 and has nearly 30 years experience in the construction industry.
She also has her DOT DBE certification and is a senior environmental engineer with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Virgina Tech. Handler is also a member of the Sewanee Mountain Grotto, a local organization of cavers who are conservation oriented and participates actively with the SKTF.
Handler has the numerous resources needed in various cleanup efforts with SKTF.
“We are a regional group of cavers that are a resource organization to local groups to help clean up various cave, karst or watershed features,” said Handler. “We are working here because of Gap Cave. This is all part of the Gap Cave watershed.”
For more information on how to receive or offer help to protect a local watershed, contact Handler at TNshotgun@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.caversparadise.com.
Reach Reina P. Cunningham at 606-248-1010, ext. 210, firstname.lastname@example.org.