The Cumberland Avenue Merchants Association (CAMA), Keep Knoxville Beautiful and the City of Knoxville will host a Cumberland Avenue Cleanup event from 9-11 a.m. on Tuesday, May 22.

CAMA merchants – enthusiastic about the greener new Cumberland Avenue – have pledged to take a more active role in routinely picking up toss-down litter near their businesses.

Flyaway pieces of litter are annoying, but they can accumulate in pockets of debris, out of sight, that grow into serious problems. The accumulations happen everywhere, and they can spiral out of control.

Way, way downstream, scientists have documented islands of floating trash in the oceans ( that are the size of U.S. states, but it’s not widely understood that litter from places as far inland as Knoxville, Tennessee, can contribute to the growth of these islands.

Trash thrown down on the ground or blown out of an uncovered container is washed into storm drains and local creeks. It then can make its way into the Tennessee River, on to the Mississippi River, and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.

That’s why, as part of the $25 million investment in public infrastructure along the Cumberland Avenue Corridor project, City stormwater engineers installed a new stormwater catch system for Third Creek.

A 4-foot pipe running beneath Cumberland Avenue collects much of the runoff from both the Fort Sanders neighborhood and Cumberland Avenue area and drains toward Third Creek near the greenway. Before it drains into Third Creek, a lot of the water goes through a treatment unit, which removes large quantities of litter and pollutants from the stormwater. Unfortunately, some trash inevitably makes its way to the creek.

Along Cumberland alone, crews collect more than 4,000 pounds of garbage and recyclables each week that people responsibly place in receptacles.

“CAMA wanted to launch this cleanup as the next step toward making sure Cumberland looks its best,” said Joe Burger, owner of the Cumberland Avenue McDonald’s and CAMA President.

“We want to make a statement that we care about our area, and that we’re going to take action and take ownership of our commercial corridor.”

Keep Knoxville Beautiful is asking volunteers to register for the May 22 cleanup so it can plan how many bags, gloves and other supplies to provide. To register, visit

Volunteers for the cleanup event will meet at the Copper Cellar, 1807 Cumberland Ave. Parking will be available in the Copper Cellar upper lot, closest to White Avenue. McDonald’s will be providing free coffee and biscuits to volunteers, and its parking lot will be available for additional parking, as needed.

If you haven’t been to Cumberland Avenue recently, swing by and admire the more than 90 large trees that have leafed out.

With a conversion to LED lights and the new stormwater infrastructure, the new Cumberland is more sustainably responsible than ever. Runoff water reaching Third Creek is the cleanest in modern times.

“The new Cumberland Avenue water quality treatment unit does a great job at helping prevent trash and debris from washing into Third Creek, but the device has limitations and can’t get it all,” said Chris Howley, the City of Knoxville’s Stormwater Engineering Chief.

“It really takes community effort in using the trash cans and cleaning up trash on the sidewalk, so that it won’t wash down the drain and end up in the creek and river.”


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