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Volunteers cleaning up Tuscarora Creek

August 12, 2000

Volunteers cleaning up Tuscarora Creek



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It doesn't seem like an obvious recreation spot as Steve Kleinot makes his way down a grassy hillside past a yard full of barking dogs.

He gets to the edge of the woods and follows a path that leads down to Tuscarora Creek behind the old B&O Roundhouse off East Martin Street.

The path opens into a newly mowed area that overlooks the creek, which rolls through a quiet wooded area.

It didn't used to be this nice, Kleinot said.

When Kleinot and a group of volunteers decided to clean up the area around the creek two years ago, they ended up hauling 15 dump truck loads of household debris and other trash from along the creek.

One of the open dumps along the creek covered the entire hillside, Kleinot said.

Over the last two years, the Tuscarora Creek Watershed Association has conducted numerous other clean-up efforts on the creek and has started monitoring the quality of the water. Last year, sewage was detected in the creek about three-quarters of a mile upstream. It was traced to a city sewer line, Kleinot said.

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City crews quickly repaired the line and there have been few water quality problems since, Kleinot said.

At one time, people came to Tuscarora Creek to swim and fish, and Kleinot and members of his group hope to restore the creek so those activities can be enjoyed again.

Tuscarora Creek winds throughout Martinsburg and Berkeley County, passing by such points of interest as War Memorial Park and Poor House Farm Park.

Behind the B&O Roundouse off East Martin Street, the creek rushes past a steep embankment below the roundhouse complex, which is also being renovated. Although the creek is only blocks away from downtown, nothing can be heard but rushing water.

"When you come down here, it's like you're not in town anymore," said Kleinot, who is often aided by about a dozen volunteers in the clean-up efforts.

Over the years, the creek has been studied as the possible focal point for a linear park through town, which would be an obvious asset, said Kleinot, who works as an accountant. He said he has walked along other portions of the creek with the group that is interested in the linear park concept to get an idea of the layout of the creek.

"You can see what they will have. It will be a beautiful place to use and enjoy," he said.

Over the last three years, the Tuscarora Creek Watershed Association has received $15,000 in grants from the West Virginia Stream Partners Program, which is managed by the state Division of Environmental Protection. The grant program started in 1996 after the Legislature appropriated general revenues to fund grants for people who wanted to protect state streams.

The $15,000 has been used to pay for monthly water testing of samples taken from 10 locations along the creek, Kleinot said. The money has also been used to buy a brush mower and other equipment to clear the area, and to pay for trash removal.

The section of the creek behind the roundhouse and High Street was one of the most neglected , and there was little aquatic life in the creek, Kleinot said. Kleinot thinks oil and creosote runoff may have affected acquatic life over the years.

Since Kleinot's group began working on the creek, water plants have started to appear, as well as minnows and crayfish.

Although tons of trash have been removed from the area, some people still use the creek for a dumping ground. Kleinot said he hopes as word spreads about his group's effort, people will change their habits.

The Tuscarora Creek Watershed Association is one of two organizations in the Eastern Panhandle that received grants for watershed restoration last month.

The other is the Jefferson County Watersheds Coalition, which has completed clean-up efforts and water monitoring on such Jefferson County streams as Town Run in Shepherdstown, Lower Rocky Marsh Run, Elk Run, the West Virginia shore of the Potomac River, Evitt's Run and Bullskin Run, said Richard Latterell, member of the group.

Although there have been some problem areas in terms of water quality, the streams are generally healthy, said Latterell, whose group received $3,800 last month. It has received about $7,500 in the two previous years.

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