Boyhood memory prompts cleanup


August 21, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

BRUNSWICK -- During the nearly 40 years David McIntosh traveled the world, working in various jobs, he nourished a memory of his youth: swimming in a pristine inlet off the Potomac River in this small Frederick County community.

Mr. McIntosh, 53, returned to his hometown two months ago to find the mile-long inlet, which runs almost parallel to the Potomac River and the C&O Canal, in bad shape. The waterway was shallow, murky and filled with tires.

Yesterday, Mr. McIntosh, who served in both the Navy and Coast Guard, and his wife, Carol, rounded up the last of about 200 smelly and deteriorating tires -- some 40 and 50 years old -- from the inlet for transport to a cement factory.

"This place was always special to me," said Mr. McIntosh, who splashed through the water, pulling tires on a rope from as far as 300 yards away. "I thought when I got home the river would be the river I always remembered. It wasn't.

"Children used to come down here and play. Somewhere along the line they quit coming."

When Mr. McIntosh began trying to clean up the inlet, his efforts caught the attention of Maryland Natural Resources Police, who arranged to have the Donald B. Rice Tire Co. Inc. of Frederick haul the tires away. The tires will be recycled as fuel at Essroc Materials Inc., a cement manufacturer in Frederick.

Neither company hesitated to help Mr. McIntosh and they waived fees for disposing of the tires, said David Hohman, a natural resources police officer.

Mr. Hohman discovered what Mr. McIntosh was doing two weeks ago after a complaint about a man throwing tires in the inlet at the Canal National Historical Park.

"He got to laughing when we told him," Mr. Hohman said. "At thattime he gathered 107 tires. No one would accept them without charging $2 a tire. I decided we could use them locally and recycle them."

Mr. McIntosh, a former minister who most recently managed a small insulation-manufacturing plant, and his wife, a former secretary, couldn't afford to pay for the tire removal. They are unemployed.

The couple began their cleanup in June, after Mr. McIntosh discovered a tire buried in sand and silt while giving his stepsons a lesson on erosion. Canoeists, fisherman and boaters often stopped to watch the family but never offered to help.

"We were kind of hoping the community would get involved," Mrs. McIntosh said. "No one has. It's kind of amazing. I couldn't tell you how many people have just sat and watched."

Besides the tires, the couple and Mrs. McIntosh's sons, Steven, 10, and Bradley, 8, have uncovered signs, plates, records, a radio, water heater and washing-machine tub.

Mr. Hohman said the garbage comes from random dumping along the river, which forms Maryland's southern border. The Potomac has sustained extensive pollution, but farm runoff management programs and sewage regulations have improved its health in recent years, he said.

Tires, he said, have caused sand and silt to build up, making the inlet shallower. Nitrogen released from the slowly decomposing tires also has killed plant life, eliminating camouflage for nurseries of fish.

"Every day the river gets better. Things like this help out," said Jeffrey T. White, a Natural Resources Police officer. "Once in a while, you'll see somebody on a boat pick up a tire and leave it at the ramp. I've never seen anybody do anything like this."

Mr. McIntosh's efforts drew admirers and at least one volunteer yesterday: 5-year-old Michael Marcoux of Jefferson, who rolled tires to a truck.

"I wondered why all the tires were here, and he volunteered to help," said his mother, Catherine. "He's a good kid. And I think [Mr. McIntosh] is a pretty outstanding man. He must have a lot of concern for the environment."

Andy Nichols, president of the Monocacy Watershed Conservancy, which has sponsored cleanups of the Monocacy River, by chance witnessed Mr. McIntosh's work yesterday.

"It's great to see people doing this," he said. "We could have involved a lot of people to help him out, had we known about it."

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