Al Lipin stopped in his tracks when he spotted the cup, stuck under a storm drain that bore the warning: "Don't Dump -- Chesapeake Bay Drainage."
The litter was a painful sign of the times for Lipin, Glen Burnie neighborhood activist.
Looking at the debris strewn on the banks of Sawmill Creek, caught in the weeds and crushed under sewers, he remembered the years when neighborhood cleanup crews patrolled the area. Back in the '70s, groups of environmentally concerned residents regularly picked up the litter.
One Saturday, Lipin recalled, they filled several county Dumpsters full of trash, hauling away everything from beer bottles to a sofa.
The cleanup efforts dwindled after the county completed a $30,000 study of the watershed in 1986. In the past four years, Lipin said, little has been done to maintain and protect the 13.7-mile stream and surrounding tributaries.
"Mainly, everything stopped because the county did not take an active interest in this project," said Lipin, who founded the Sawmill Creek Park Association while he was a state senator in 1977.
With a new county executive in office, Lipin hopes to revive interest in cleaning up the watershed and buying moreopen land to protect the creek as recommended in the 1986 study.
He has called a meeting tonight to breathe new life into the Sawmill Creek Park Association. County officials, including a representative of the Office of Planning and Zoning, have been invited to discuss the 1986 plan.
Protecting North County's major creek is critical to preserve native vegetation and wildlife and also to save the bay, Lipin said. Endangered for years by heavy development throughout the Glen Burnie area, Sawmill Creek now is filled at many points with layersof silt that eroded from the banks.
Stopping at Wagner's Pond, a murky pool of water across from the Maisel Brother's block plant on Eighth Avenue, Lipin pointed out the plants growing in the water.
"This pond used to be 4- or 5-feet higher," he said. "It used to be a big ice-skating rink before World War II."
Nobody skates on the pond anymore. A goose swam among the weeds and littered plastic bags, beneath the radio towers of WJRO.
Lipin hopes a newly-revived Sawmill Creek Park Association will have the power to lobby the county to buy additional open space along the creek. If county officials purchased property between Queenstown and Friendship parks, he said, they would not only create more room for recreation, but also forestall thechance of more commercial or industrial development.
"The area needs more parkland -- not only open space, but also recreational facilities," Lipin said. "The watershed has been so heavily developed, we need to do something to maintain the remaining land."
Sawmill Creek starts at the Severn Danza Park, flows toward Baltimore-Washington International Airport, then meanders through much of Glen Burnie before dumping into Furnace Creek. The shallow, slow-moving creek runs behind homes in Fern-Glen and Old Glen Burnie, commercial strips on Crain Highway, and industries on Dorsey Road.
The watershed's drainage area encompasses 5,000 acres, including 3,300 acres of residential property, 400 acres of commercial land, and 300 acres of industrial sites.
Thirty-two acres in the eastern area has been designated as a critical area under Maryland's Chesapeake Bay protection law.
Although summer crews lined parts of the creek with stones to halt erosion, some areas were left untouched, and soil continues to seep into the creek.
Lipin said the county government largely ignored the 1986 management plan which called for using open space funds to protectareas near the watershed.
Ginger Ellis, a member of the Planning and Zoning Office who will speak at tonight's meeting, said some of the 1986 recommendations were followed. She could not cite specific examples yesterday but said she would discuss the plan at the 7:30 meeting at the Glen Burnie Improvement Association headquarters on Crain Highway.