CHARLESTON — It was a few months ago that Kara Baker noticed that Lake Charleston could use a cleanup, and by early Saturday morning there was already a discarded mattress and box springs found and ready to be dumped.
Baker and several other Eastern Illinois University students spent part of the morning at the lake picking up trash, some of which was noticeable now because of the summer’s drought.
“The lack of rain lowered the water level,” Baker said. “There was so much trash exposed.”
Saturday’s effort was led by the EIU geology department’s honors society, of which Baker is a member. The EIU senior said she first noticed the conditions at the lake during a visit over the summer.
“It was really nice but really dirty,” she said.
The honors society has public service as one of its requirements, said EIU assistant professor Diane Burns, the group’s advisor. The organization tries to do two projects a year, one during the fall semester and other during the spring semester, and “it usually involves cleaning,” she said.
The organization has done cleanups at Lake Charleston for the last 10 years, has included a campus cleanup in the past and hopes to add more locations for its work in the future, Burns said.
“There are a lot of dirty places in town,” she said, partly joking. Still, she pointed to a small candy wrapper on the ground, noting that there might be quite a bit of trash in places where it’s not really that noticeable.
Burns said students from the department’s geography honors society along with geology/geography student clubs, as well as from other departments and organizations, helped with Saturday’s effort. She also advised other EIU instructors of the project and some gave students extra credit for volunteering to help Saturday.
Baker said the exposed trash at the lake included floatation devices, bottles, empty beer cases and cigarette packs. She said Saturday’s work would concentrate on the lake’s fishing areas where old fishing lures and discarded buckets were among the things left behind.
She also noted that there were some places where it was evident that fires had been extinguished properly and there were no signs of any trash remaining.
“There are people attempting to clean up after themselves,” she said.
The students planned to recycle what materials they could from the trash they picked up and city of Charleston departments agreed to take the rest, Baker said. She noted that there are several trash bins and garbage cans for public use at the lake.
The city provided the students with trash bags and gloves to use during their work.
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