ST. MARYS — Once a year volunteers scour the banks of the St. Marys River to pick up trash, and they never come back empty handed.

Volunteers at 20 sites along the 130-mile river in Georgia and Florida have picked up as much as 50,000 pounds of trash during the morning-long cleanup.

After several years where less trash was found, it’s likely more litter will be picked up during Saturday’s cleanup, said Alex Kearns, chair of St. Marys EarthKeepers, and one of the coordinators for the downtown St. Marys portion of the cleanup.

“For awhile, it was trending down,” Kearns said. “I’m noticing a marked increase in beer cans, plastic bags, styrofoam.”

Some volunteers, especially those with knee-high boots, will be asked to gather trash in the undeveloped wetlands areas in the downtown historic district.

“In St. Marys, we focus a lot of effort inland,” Kearns said. “Everything dumped in the streets ends up in the river.”

Gloves and garbage bags will be provided for the volunteers, but they are encouraged to bring rakes, trash sticks or nets to collect trash.

Volunteers with watercraft will be assigned areas along the river and creeks to collect trash.

Those on foot can expect to find anything during the cleanup. In past years, volunteers have dragged couches, refrigerators, stoves and tires from the river banks. They also discovered a meth lab about a decade ago.

More than 125 volunteers are expected to participate in Saturday’s cleanup. Volunteers do not have to register in advance. They are advised to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and protective footwear.

Volunteers are asked to show up to the downtown boat ramp next to Howard Gilman Memorial Park to register, receive their assignments and get their gloves, garbage bags and a wrist band to attend the after-cleanup celebration at White Oak Conservation.

The cleanup is scheduled from 9-11 a.m. Saturday. The volunteer celebration at White Oak Conservation runs from noon to 4 p.m. Only those wearing wrist bands will be allowed to enter.

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