By Max Hrenda
Carter County is awaiting a proposal from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in which the agency would agree to reimburse the county for money and labor put into maintaining the area around Blevins Bend.
“The details have not been worked out yet,” said Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey. “This is in the early phases.”
Part of the reason Blevins Bend requires attention is its popularity.
The site is a frequented by in-state and out-of-state rafting companies, as well as local fishermen. The high flow of traffic leads to a higher amount of garbage … with no receptacles to contain it.
“To have a place for the boaters to put their boats in doesn’t require a trash receptacle,” said retiree Jim McGee, who lives near Blevins Bend. “That comes with the designation of being an entrance ramp.
McGee, who also serves in Carter County Citizens in Action, is one of a few volunteers who has spent the past five years working to keep the entrance litter-free.
“I used to like to be on the river; My children all grew up around this area,” McGee said. “This is a project I undertook to keep the rivers clean and keep it looking neat for the neighborhood.”
While McGee acknowledged that litter is certainly an issue at Blevins Bend, he also made a distinction between that and another type of trash.
“You have debris that flows down the river: old branches, logs, leaves,” McGee said. “It blocks up that dock and that loading ramp.”
When the debris or the litter becomes too much for the volunteers to handle, McGee said a contact at the city dump will send a dumpster to collect the mess. He said that method was easier than involving TWRA.
“If we get TWRA, there’s never a set time, because they have to come from Knoxville with their equipment,” McGee said. “If we do it locally, then it’s a whole lot easier to schedule.”
Although the land falls under TWRA supervision, officials have said that maintaining those areas can sometimes prove to be too expensive.
“We kind of have a fixed budget for litter pickup,” said Bart Carter, fisheries manager for TWRA Region IV. “Maintenance for those access areas is funded, although at times it’s not adequete.”
Resource availability has also proven to be an issue. TWRA Region IV, which contains Carter County, spans the 21 eastern-most counties of Tennessee, and has 16 wildlife management areas to accompany 13 reservoirs.
“We have 99 — and soon to be over 100 — access sites that we take care of,” said Region IV Manager John Gregory. “The access crew is stationed around Rogersville, and they make the circuit to maintain areas.”
Humphrey acknowledged that TWRA’s broad jurisdiction makes regular maintenance difficult.
“Because of their limited resources and displacement of staff, (TWRA) has not been able to maintain (Blevins Bend),” Humphrey said. “But we want to be good community partners and help them out when possible.”
Historically, Carter County has relied on the Tennessee Department of Transportation Litter Grant Program to clean Blevins Bend. The grant provides Carter County with about $53,000 per year.
Despite the grant money, the county often exceeds this amount in keeping the area around Blevins Bend clean.
“That’s a countywide grant to help clean up the roadways,” Humphrey said. “If we incur costs, then we would need reimbursement from TWRA.”
Along with scheduling, Humphrey said the financial burden on the county would also be eased.
“It would be much better if we could work it out to where we could do it locally and they could just reimburse us,” Humphrey said. “The county needs to work with (TWRA) to make the best use of tax dollars.”
“I feel it’s turned into a good relationship (with the county),” Gregory said. “We could work something out to reimburse the county.”
Although he did not say when he expected a reimbursement plan to be completed, Humphrey expressed confidence that an arrangement would be forthcoming.
“I’m sure we’ll find a solution,” Humphrey said.