BOGALUSA -- For almost 60 years, Gary Parker has run up and down the Pearl River like it was his own backyard.
He says he's seen a lot of changes on the waterway, but none as disturbing as the literal log jam, littered with trash, currently sitting on the Mississippi side of the river, south of Pool's Bluff, which is just outside of Bogalusa.
It's so significant that the old horseshoe in the river is now dried up. A new cut that the river formed naturally to get around that log jam is now facing the same fate.
Parker's had enough of it.
"They would always say, 'Well they need to clean this, they need to fix that, they need to build this,'" he said about friends who would complain about the trash dam. "And finally it dawned on me. I said, 'Boys, there is no they. There's only you, me, I. We've gotta get out and do something.'"
That's when State Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa, got involved. While already a navigational nightmare, she's concerned if the clutter isn't addressed, it could cause future residential flooding, north and south of the build-up, decline recreational use and damage commercial needs on the river.
"There's manmade and natural disasters that have created what I believe could possibly be an ecological disaster if it's not dealt with," she said.
The jam is growing quickly. Pictures from White's July 28 visit, compared to our visit Tuesday, show four-feet of difference in the amount of debris stacked up at one point around the new cut in the river.
Residents like Fred Lawrence have done their best to keep that section flowing.
"It was at one time solid for 10 or 20 yards," he said, "We just kept working on it, working on it, working on it."
White says more needs to be done on a larger, safer scale, with agencies from Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington D.C. involved.
While those state and federal partnerships are being developed, the first partnership needs to start with the public and how they treat the river through reduced on-land litter, securing loose house boat materials and being mindful of discarding trash properly while boating or tubing.
"The river's been good to me and I don't mind trying to give back, trying to help it," said Parker, so he says he's proud to lead the way.
The issue has inspired a Pearl River Clean Sweep event from Jackson all the way down to Slidell. It's scheduled for Saturday, September 23. To learn more about getting involved in that clean-up, visit www.pearlriverkeeper.com.
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