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Creek gets a long overdue cleanup

September 18, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Choked by tires, construction debris and soda bottles, the water in Antietam Creek is home to schools of tiny fish and big amounts of rubbish.

On Sunday, volunteers took to the creek in canoes and rowboats, searching for garbage in the Antietam Creek Watershed Alliance's first big cleanup.

"We got the cart, the umbrella, this big old tiki torch, this trolley ... a bunch of stuff," said Patrick Knable, 14, whose clothes were smeared with mud from his shoes to his shirt.

Patrick, of Hagerstown, and Ben Hesse, 14, who both attend Saint James School, were among dozens of people who gathered at Long & Foster Realtors on Dual Highway after scouring the creek for debris.

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According to Sally Hatch, one of the watershed alliance's founders, the cleanup event, which included sections of the creek near Dual Highway and Municipal Stadium, could be the first in an annual process.

About 50 people, including Saint James students and Boy Scouts, participated, Hatch said. She described her reaction to the turnout as "enthused, amazed, excited."

On the creek, Jennifer Eaton, the mother of a Boy Scout, and David Biser, an assistant Scoutmaster, used their paddles to unearth an old tire. Eaton pulled three rotting bags from trees near a clearing where the pair stopped to hunt garbage.

"Hey, this is obviously antique - a metal bowl with a nice blue pattern," said Biser, who took time to admire the weather-worn dish.

On shore, volunteers dragged shelving, pipes and garbage bags from their boats, and a few boys celebrated their day's haul.

"We found a tire, a big tarp," said Juan Ortiz, 15, of New York City. "We picked up a lot of garbage. It felt good to help out the environment."

Much of the material fished out of the creek will be recycled, said Charles McClister, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, which was handling the disposal of the garbage.

Patrick, Juan and some of the other volunteers said they enjoyed taking part in the cleanup. Patrick and Ben even said they would be willing to come back.

"I enjoyed canoeing around, and just cleaning all this trash out of the river," Patrick said.

Despite pollution, the creek has the potential to become a recreational draw, said Emilie Cooper, a Maryland Department of Natural Resources watershed forester in Washington County. Someday, she said, she would like cleanup efforts to stretch from the Maryland border all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.

Though the creek is filled with castoffs, Cooper observed that its banks still are green, unlike many area waterways.

Like Hatch, Cooper said as the cleanup began that she was pleased with the turnout.

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