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Volunteers take to the banks of Beaver Creek for Field & Stream Hero Day

March 23, 2013|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com
  • Volunteers John Bussard, left, of Clear Spring and Richie Derr, of Keedysville, planted Silky Dogwood trees on the banks of Beaver Creek Saturday afternoon.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

More than 50 volunteers strapped on their hip boots and took to the banks of Beaver Creek on Saturday for Field & Stream Hero Day.

The hands-on conservation project was one in a series of events that have taken place over more than a decade to preserve and improve the habitat for wild brown and rainbow trout in the stream.

Hero Day celebrated Doug Hutzell, 62, a Hagerstown resident who lives along Beaver Creek, for being named a Hero of Conservation in the March issue of Field & Stream magazine. Staff from the magazine were on hand to interview Hutzell and shoot video to be featured in a webisode at www.fieldandstream.com on May 30.

Hutzell played down the attention on his efforts dating to about 1999 through which he formed the Beaver Creek Watershed Association in 2003, and which inspired two chapters of Trout Unlimited, the Antietam Fly Anglers and other groups to fund about $500,000 worth of redesign work on 2,500 feet of the stream.

“I guess this month, I’m part of that (Field & Stream Heroes of Conservation) program,” Hutzell said. “But today, we have all kind of heroes of conservation working, all the volunteers that came out to help.”

Hutzell laid out plans for Hero Day workers to remove plastic tree tubes from previously planted trees and to put wire cages around trees to protect them from being damaged by the area’s sizable beaver population.

Volunteers also removed log jams, planted additional trees and shrubs, and replaced foot bridges that had come off their foundations during high-water events. Some workers took samples for microinvertebrate studies in cooperation with Trout Unlimited and the Stream Waders Program through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Hutzell said.

Hutzell said he set out to restore about one mile of the stream. Significant work requiring additional funding remains to be completed on about 1,800 feet. But James Harris, who nominated Hutzell for the Hero title, said improvements thus far are evident.

Harris, 26, of Brunswick, Md., owns Beaver Creek Fly Shop and said the fish population in the stream has increased, drawing anglers from throughout Maryland, as well as Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“A lot of people come here to fish just because it’s so good,” Harris said. “The improvements have taken hold. It’s a really good stream now.”

Dell Martin, 70, of Sharpsburg, said he met Hutzell while fishing near Hutzell’s home. As a fly angler who seeks out streams with native trout, Martin said he became a “natural candidate” to join the Beaver Creek Watershed Association.

“The idea is both that conservation is worth doing. But because we are fly fishermen, we have a special interest in having a place where we can tie a fly based on what’s hatching in this stream and use it and catch fish doing that,” Martin said. “It completes the circle.”

Michael Saylor, M.D., president of the Beaver Creek Watershed Association, said the area’s limestone and large freshwater springs create ideal conditions for wild trout. But agricultural degradation, herbicides and pesticides, and other factors had led the stream into decline.

Saylor applauded the restoration effort that has led to an abundance of wild trout and prolific insect hatches. On summer nights, he said, onlookers can watch trout go to the water’s surface to feed on flies.

“This is about being able to become involved in the natural process of hatching of the insects and observing what’s going on,” he said. “It has a calming influence.”

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