With the BBQ Festival looming on the horizon, Barbourville’s Mayor Thompson pulled out all of the stops. He contacted Knox County Jailer Mary Hammons and asked her for help to clean the riverbank opposite Thompson Park.
Thompson said, “From the ramp, I could count 28 tires just lying half buried in river mud on that bank. My intent (with Mary’s ok and inmate help), was to use work release qualified inmates to pull the tires up the floodwall using rope.”
Hammons agreed to the task. She said, “As long as the cleanup was not on private property and a judge would say it was ok.”
Thompson immediately contacted Judges Chappell and Hammons and the go ahead was given. A crew of four inmates was dispatched to the river Saturday afternoon around 4 p.m. Inmates Ricky Cox, Ernest McIntyre, Jeremy Davidson and Donald Rice volunteered for and assisted in the cleanup. The inmates were supervised by Deputy David Stewart. As soon as the job began, Ricky Cox figured out that it would be quicker and easier to walk the tires across the river and haul them up the ramp via a truck or trailer.
Stewart said, “I really think he wanted to get wet and cool off.”
In less than two hours, the inmates had dug up, washed out, carried, and floated a total of 58 tires across the river to the Thompson Park side.
Stewart said, “The inmates liked what they had accomplished and asked to return the next day. So we did. Larry Simpson was added to the crew and we worked another three hours. During that time we pulled up another 20 tires, removed 8 XL garbage-filled bags and made six large piles of driftwood.”
Thompson said, “It looks like a whole new riverbank. I really appreciate Mary for helping the City of Barbourville with this cleanup.