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Residents bring trees for the chipper

Staff Photo: John Bohn Brandon Reid, a student at Brookwood, left, and Crystal Chu, a student at Parkview, work to clear a large pile of Christmas trees during a recycling operation held at Bethesda Park in Lawrenceville Saturday morning. Volunteers, including many local high school students carried discarded Christmas trees to wood chipping stations at the park.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Brandon Reid, a student at Brookwood, left, and Crystal Chu, a student at Parkview, work to clear a large pile of Christmas trees during a recycling operation held at Bethesda Park in Lawrenceville Saturday morning. Volunteers, including many local high school students carried discarded Christmas trees to wood chipping stations at the park.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- By noon on Saturday, more than 10,000 Christmas trees were fed into a chipper, which spewed holiday-scented mulch into hulking piles at Bethesda Park.

In coming weeks, tons of mulch generated from trees like Fraser and Douglas Firs will be spread throughout Gwinnett County parks, lining the trails and fertilizing flower beds.

And it's all thanks to local residents, said Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Director Connie Wiggins.

Through the community's donations of used Christmas Trees on the annual Bring One for the Chipper event, the organization recycled 30,000 trees last year. The group of volunteers is on track to set a new record in 2012, Wiggins said.

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"This is the largest Bring one for the Chipper event in the state in terms of how many trees get recycled," said Wiggins on Saturday as she watched volunteers sweep up pine needles and drag trees back and forth across the parking lot.

Volunteer Osama Khan, a senior from Meadowcreek High School, said he heard about the event through a club at school. "I just wanted to help out and get dirty," Khan said. "I definitely want to come back next year...what a great way to spend a Saturday."

Volunteer Viviana Rincon said the opportunity was "a great workout."

She added that she was pleased to see "lots of people out here for a good purpose. Everyone pitches in and is determined to work."

Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Board Member Patrick Kien has been helping out at the event for 10 years now. He said he's watched it grow and grow.

"Ten years ago," Kien said, "nobody would have even thought about recycling Christmas trees. It just goes to show you that almost anything can be recycled, and it sends a positive message out to the community."

Kien was among several dozen other volunteers, which included students from 10 schools from around Gwinnett County.

Wiggins said none of the volunteers or Christmas tree donors had any trouble finding the location of Bring One for the Chipper on Saturday.

The distinct holiday scent wafted for miles.

"It's nice-smelling mulch," Wiggins said. "It takes you right back to the holidays."

For more information about Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, visit www.gwinnettcb.org.