Cleanup flusters Maumee Group

Journal Gazette – (front page of the Metro Section) Fort Wayne, IN

July 25, 2010

by Caitlin Johnston

Volunteers spent hours cleaning the Maumee River, replanting the banks along the way.

Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette

Abigail Frost King, left, and her son Canaan Eubank, 14, collect trash along the Maumee River on Saturday. Upper Maumee Watershed Partnership sponsored the Bi-State River Cleanup.

Tires. A Little Tikes sport coupe. DVD cases. A car door.

Sounds like trash in a junkyard or a city dump. But it’s litter found in the Maumee River.

The Upper Maumee River Watershed Partnership and local volunteers spent several hours Saturday canoeing down a two-mile stretch of the Maumee gathering trash as part of the Bi-State River Cleanup.

This is the first event the partnership has organized, but treasurer Abby Frost has led several outings on other parts of the river with the Save Maumee Grassroots Organization.

Volunteers used canoes and boats to scour the river and collect as much trash as possible.

But with limited time and minimal manpower, they had to leave a lot behind.

“There’s a lot of stuff we had to leave out there, which I wasn’t expecting to do,” said Chelsie Werling, 21.

“It reminds you that you need to take care of the river and why you want to protect it.”

A mayonnaise container, Axe body spray bottle and a small abandoned boat about the size of a canoe were all stranded in the river.

And then there were the ducks. About 2,000 plastic ducks were reported missing after the 22nd annual Duck Race fundraising event for Stop Child Abuse & Neglect.

Each canoe brought back dozens of the miniature ducks they found floating along the Maumee.

Despite cleanings done by local groups, trash continues to accumulate, said Greg Lake, Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District director. Lake also is the steering committee chair for the partnership.

“The sad part is, a lot of people who use the rivers the most trash it up,” Lake said. “It’s frustrating.”

Upper Maumee is the third active watershed project in Allen County, Lake said.

The group is looking to apply for funding from various state and federal sources to engage in conservation efforts, but first it must develop and submit a watershed management plan. The goal is to do so within the next year, Lake said.

The amount of trash in the river is just one indication of the effect humans have.

“People don’t understand the consequences of the things they do,” Lake said, citing examples of gutter drains and agricultural runoff.

Volunteer and activist groups allow people to get to participate and try to preserve local resources.

“This is kind of a hands-on approach that you can actually get people involved with instead of just sitting at meetings,” Frost said. “People want to feel empowered and like they can make a difference.”

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