RUTLAND – Over the past 16 years, the Leading Creek Stream Sweep has become a springtime tradition in Meigs County and a way to help leave the outdoors a little cleaner.
Volunteers will arrive at the sweep, where they will be provided with the necessities for trash removal before they begin their work.
The first Leading Creek Stream Sweep was in 2001 at the Firemen’s Park in Rutland, with the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District holding the event as part of its Leading Creek Improvement Project. The sweep was held to bring attention to the Leading Creek watershed, which drains approximately 150 square miles primarily in western Meigs County.
“In 2001, the Conservation Area didn’t even exist,” said Jim Freeman, wildlife specialist and watershed coordinator for the Meigs SWCD, adding, “If Stream Sweep were a person, it would be old enough to drive a car now.”
In 2007, the event moved to nearby Jim Vennari Park, where it remained until 2014 when it moved to the Conservation Area.
“The Conservation Area has plenty of parking, a large shelter house and bathrooms, making it ideal as a base of operations,” Freeman said.
This year’s Stream Sweep will be 9 a.m. to noon April 23 at the Meigs SWCD Conservation Area on New Lima Road between Rutland and Harrisonville.
Freeman said the routine is fairly simple: Volunteers show up, sign in, collect their bags and gloves, and head out to a clean-up location.
“Some people know where they want to go, others need a little direction,” he said. “People bring the trash they have collected back to the Conservation Area, or leave it alongside the road so we can pick it up for them.”
Freeman explained attendance has ranged over the years from a few dozen to about 100. He said it’s an ideal activity for youth groups that need a community service project.
“The reward for a few hours of work is a lunch, and the satisfaction of leaving the world a slightly cleaner place,” Freeman said. “And we serve our volunteers pizza when the work is done.
“The event roughly coincides with Earth Day, but the timing has more to do with practicality than anything else. It needed to be warm enough so people could work outside along the stream banks, but early enough in the season to allow volunteers to get close to the streams without encountering a lot of weeds and poison ivy.”
He said nature of the trash found has changed a little over the years.
“In the beginning, we focused on larger illegal dump sites, but most of those have been cleaned up,” Freeman said. “A lot of the big stuff is gone now. For a few years there would always be a lot of wire insulation, evidence of copper thieves. Those kind of people don’t seem to mind what they throw out of their cars.”
When asked how many tons of litter he thought had been removed from the stream banks and roadsides in the Leading Creek Watershed, he said it was difficult to say.
“In the early years we would have several truckloads full of large, heavy stuff, but much of that is gone now,” Freeman said. “Now it is mostly litter.
“I always say an ideal year would be one where we went out to pick up litter, but couldn’t find any. But I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. Litterbugs are going to litter; or as one of my friends puts it, only trash throws trash.”
The Leading Creek Stream Sweep was modeled after the annual Ohio River Sweep, which will be June 18 in Pomeroy and Racine.
The Leading Creek event is sponsored by the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District, Rutland Township Board of Trustees and the Meigs Transfer Station.
For more details about Stream Sweep or for registration forms, contact the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District at 740-992-4282. “Like” MSWC on Facebook @ MeigsSWCD Conservation Area or Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District or visit their web site at www.meigsswcd.com for the latest updates.
Contact Lorna Hart at 740-992-2155 Ext. 2551