Stranger things pulled from White Rock Lake

First time volunteers go through a brief lesson on how findings at White Rock Lake should be determined as trash or recycling. (Photo by Rasy Ran)
First time volunteers go through a brief lesson on how findings at White Rock Lake should be determined as trash or recycling. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

And the people who keep our shoreline sparkling

White Rock Lake, you’ve got some explaining to do. If only your shores could speak, maybe you would tell us how you came to hold in your belly a bowling ball. And bowling pin. A sparkly, five-inch stiletto. A rusty old sign reading, “Divorce $399.” What about that severed hand? Don’t panic: It’s a Halloween prop. But still.

For the Love of the Lake steps up to pick up even the most bizarre items. Shortly after its founding in 1995, this nonprofit organized enthusiastic volunteers and partnered with the City of Dallas to assist with monthly shoreline cleanups. Up to that point, the perpetually squeezed city budget allowed sweeps of the shore only once every year.

“Our volunteers help lighten the load for the Dallas Park and Recreation Department,” says Max Davis, president of FTLOTL. “We allow the city employees to focus on tasks other than trash pick-up.”

A bit of perspective: Waterways as far flung as Denton County and Collin County end up in the White Rock Lake watershed which, in turn, finds it way to the Trinity River. Flotsam, jetsam, random shoes, tires and toys can originate in any of the rivers and streams along the way. Much of that debris, unfortunately, washes ashore right here at our neighborhood lake.

FTLOTL Executive Director Elisabeth Akin says, “Second Saturday Shoreline Spruce Up supports the safety of children, adults, pets and wildlife, as well as keeping the shoreline clean and beautiful.”  The alliterative program now averages about 500 volunteers of all ages — and not a single Second Saturday has been cancelled since the first event in 1996.

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Bishop Lynch High School Freshman Alex Galicia removes trash from the west side of White Rock Lake. (Photo by Rasy Ran)
Bishop Lynch High School Freshman Alex Galicia removes trash from the west side of White Rock Lake. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

It’s important to note that volunteers (individuals, families, groups) are welcome to clean up anytime, any day of the week. Show up any Saturday (except holidays) and you’ll find a board member at the Casa Linda headquarters, ready to guide you. Or call ahead to schedule another day and get help and equipment. But the hoopla happens on that second Saturday.

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To take part, simply head on over to the FTLOTL headquarters (Buckner and Garland). You can’t miss it: Look for the giant yellow duck in the parking lot. If Rocky the Duck looks familiar, it’s because he’s a bit of a local celebrity, having appeared in many a neighborhood parade.

A board member will greet you, help you sign in, and point you to the free Starbucks and goodies from Nothing Bundt Cakes, Albertson’s or Kind Snack Bars. You’ll head over to the first-timers’ table where you’ll receive a short course in trash versus recyclables. If you forgot to bring your own, you’ll be offered bug spray, sunscreen and water.

Now that you’re officially educated, you’re issued bags, rubber gloves and a grabber. If you prefer a particular area of the lake, say the dog park or the boat house or near the Arboretum, now is the time to speak up. You’ll be shown a map and given options of where to work.

Should I go in the water to fish out trash? Do I need to pick up animal carcasses? Is it okay to handle that interesting-looking snake? No, no, and heavens, no. Volunteers will educate you on any potential hazards and safety issues.

One exception to the stay-out-of-the-water rule: the Paddilacs team. If you are an experienced kayaker or canoeist, show up with your boat and help haul in trash that’s out of reach of those on shore.

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Amy Ewell, one of three Trash Queens, parades in a custom handmade dress as a brand ambassador for FTLOTL at local events. (Photo by Rasy Ran)
Amy Ewell, one of three Trash Queens, parades in a custom handmade dress as a brand ambassador for FTLOTL at local events. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

Armed and educated, volunteers fan out around the lake and commence to picking up whatever detritus awaits on the shores. A mini museum at the FTLOTL headquarters displays a small sampling of all manner of strange and inexplicable objects found by volunteers. One ponders the backstory of the creepy, one-eyed, slimy green baby doll that washed ashore. Sporty types flock to the lake, but how to explain boxing gloves or a hockey stick in the watery depths? Celebrations are popular at the park, but how did that mermaid piñata wind up in the water? And please explain how the remnants of a 50-foot banner from a faraway business came to rest in our lake.

Each year the Golden Duck Award is presented to the person or group who retrieves the most unusual item. Last year’s award, a slam dunk indeed, went to HDR Engineering, one of the 50-plus Adopt-A-Shoreline groups who show up for cleanups. Utilizing their engineering skills and teamwork attitude, they tackled the daunting task of removing a 23-foot abandoned sailboat that sunk in 10 feet of water. Because the mast stuck up out of the water several feet, it had become a hazard to other boats.

HDR team member Mark Mihm says it took power boats to dislodge the hulk from the mud and drag it closer to shore. Then their engineering expertise came into play when they fashioned a pulley system to maneuver it out of the water. Bonus: The mast was removed and repurposed as a unique flagpole.

Mihm continues to be a fan of Shoreline Spruce Up: “The cool thing is the variety of people you get to meet from all walks of life with a common interest of engaging in something worthwhile and healthy. It’s time well spent, rain or shine.”

For more information or to make a donation (the nonprofit receives no city funding), visit whiterocklake.org.

Patti Vinson is a guest writer who has lived in East Dallas for over 15 years. She’s written for the Advocate and Real Simple magazine, and has taught college writing.

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  • whiterock lake

    Now through Sept. the shore line clean up is only on the 2nd Sat of the month.

  • whiterock lake

    The shore line clean up is only on the 2nd Sat. of the month now through Sept.