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Taking out the trash

Volunteers remove rubbish from Antietam Creek

Volunteers remove rubbish from Antietam Creek

September 23, 2007|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

FUNKSTOWN - Adam Griggs stepped out of his boat and into Antietam Creek. He reached into the shallow water and pulled out a toilet.

A junked commode is just one specimen among volumes of trash with which people pollute the waters of the local watershed, said Griggs, Potomac Watershed coordinator for the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.

Antietam Creek Watershed Alliance assembled a group of about 50 volunteers yesterday for the second annual Rubbish Round-up. Volunteers met at 9 a.m. at Funkstown American Legion Post 211 and shuttled to the bridge at Eastern Boulevard and Mount Aetna Road where they began gathering debris in and around the water.

The group planned to work until 1 p.m., making their way about a half mile down the river loading refuse into boats, kayaks and canoes. Around 10 a.m., they speculated they would need to quit working early because their vessels already were heaped with retrieved garbage.

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An automobile seat, a desk chair, grocery carts, tires, air conditioners and numerous bicycles were some of the other items removed from the water.

Antietam Creek Watershed Alliance is "a fledgling environmental group," said co-founder Sally Hatch of Hagerstown. ACWA, pronounced "aqua," recently chose a board of directors and officers and is in the process of becoming incorporated.

"We are going to the city and county governments with the troubled state of Antietam Creek. We're getting attention," Hatch said. "We are inspired by Mother Nature. This is our responsibility as stewards."

Hatch said she and her husband Bob moved to Hagerstown a couple of years ago for retirement. They became aware of the condition of the watershed through friends and acquaintances and began to research the situation. She noted that Antietam Creek runs approximately 41 miles through Washington County and serves as a recreational and historical site, as well as a plant and animal habitat.

The alliance envisions an eventual transformation of abandoned and decrepit sites along the creek. Hatch spoke specifically of the waterfront at the corner of Eastern Boulevard and Mount Aetna Road across from Municipal Stadium.

"Right now there is a blighted electric company. There could be walkways, cafes, bird walks, bike and river trails. We need to take the lid off and get people to see what could happen," Hatch said.

Washington County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire volunteered at the round-up. Aleshire said challenges to waterfront development at the site include private ownership by an individual who "does not have a vested interest in the community."

Aleshire said he remains hopeful that conditions along the creek will improve.

"There has been environmental negligence and property negligence. I think the negligence has occurred for so many years, it can only go up from here," he said.

Ryan Holding, 14, of Hagerstown, volunteered at the round-up with a group from Saint James School. Holding expressed disbelief when he pulled a garden hose from the creek.

"People are lazy. They throw stuff in here and it's disrespectful. It's just garbage. In our first half hour working, our raft was heaped," Holding said.

Adam Griggs said he believes people dump trash into the river for convenience, to avoid paying at the dump, and due to a "general disregard."

"It's trying to change a culture. It requires a lot of education and it's a pretty big fight," Griggs said. "But there are some good initiatives going on now. We'll keep doing it."

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