Arkabutla Lake is a place that welcomes many to come enjoy the scenery, boat and fish on the water, or gather family and friends to picnic and fellowship together.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir tragically has also become a dumpsite instead of a destination for some who are getting rid of their waste, ranging from paper or empty bottles, to larger items that include appliances and even old Jacuzzi tubs.
Chip Moore, a DeSoto County resident who lives off Robinson Gin Road near the lake, has gathered a group to take action and put some beauty back in the area.
“I grew up at Arkabutla, hunting, and fishing at Arkabutla,” Moore said. “I still do, I don’t go to any other lake. Arkabutla’s my pride and joy. I go hunt at all of the Arkabutla access points, I go to several of them all of the time throughout the year.”
What Moore has found while enjoying what Arkabutla Lake has to offer frustrated him to the point of taking action. More and more people are coming together to help in Moore’s cause, which has become known as the Arkabutla Initiative.
“It’s disgusting and shameful, and quite frankly it’s embarrassing that our people in our community are afraid to say something and just think it’s OK to do that stuff,” Moore said. “I know the times I go hunting out there, if I see somebody dumping something, even if it's to drop a Coke can out of their truck, I typically try to say something.”
Social media has been the driver of the effort, which Moore said started about a month ago. From six people the first weekend, as many as 40 people, including some Boy Scouts, recently picked up junk and trash in a specific area of the lake.
They commit to only one hour each Saturday morning and Moore communicates with them through a Facebook page, named Arkabutla Initiative. He said he also posts about their activities on another Facebook page called Hernando Happenings.
What they find when they go out can be extensive, and somewhat disturbing.
“We’ve picked up mattresses, tires, washing machines, even baby strollers, and car seats,” said Moore. “Anything you can think of. We’re picking up your typical trash bags, straws, and candy wrappers. Even last week at Coldwater Point we found a Jacuzzi tub. It’s just all kinds of stuff.”
Moore points out those who come out to help the clean up are only out there for a short time on Saturday.
“For just an hour for the day, we just pick up a little bit, have some fellowship and go home,” Moore explained. “That way people are willing to come out, knowing they can just come and show up, pick up a couple of bags and go home. That’s typical of what we stand for, a one-hour period.”
Being on Corps of Engineers property, the Arkabutla Initiative is getting support from the Corps and appreciation that people want to help them keep the area clean.
“They’ve supplied us with trash bags and gloves,” said Moore. “There are so many trash bags that we can’t haul it all, so we pick them up and get in contact with David Ross at the Corps. We let him know what days we’re going out there and what sites we are going to. He’ll make sure the trash bags are picked up.”
The sites each week are selected by what others observe are the worst areas for garbage.
“We’ve cleaned up the Hernando area now and we’re going to keep moving around,” Moore said. “There’s really no set designated points, we just go where we think it’s bad and go clean it up.”
The Arkabutla Initiative activities will take a break as spring kicks in and “critters like snakes and bees,” as Moore said, take over. But Moore added they plan to pick it back up later in the fall.
In the meantime, Moore hopes people will speak up if they see others dumping trash.
“Don’t be afraid to talk to someone who is throwing out trash,” Moore encouraged. “That’s one thing I learned in the Marine Corps is, ‘if you see something, say something.’ There’s no real way to stop it other than people themselves.”
Search Arkabutla Initiative on Facebook to learn more about this grassroots effort to keep the reservoir clean and trash free.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.