Volunteers wade into a watery spring cleaning

Project aims to clear area waterways of waste

April 07, 2002|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

At Herring Run Park yesterday, joggers loped on the asphalt path, dogs tugged at taut leashes and some 70 volunteers diligently cleaned up the trash-lined stream that gives the Northeast Baltimore park its name.

As filled garbage bags popped up like the suddenly ubiquitous dandelions, similar acts of environmental stewardship were occurring across the region at other spots in the city and in Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

The second annual Project Clean Stream, organized by the Irvine Nature Center in Stevenson, was in full bloom, a concerted effort to beautify natural treasures that double as dumping grounds.

"Some people may say it's a one-day project, how much impact can you make in one day?" said Roseann Glick, Irvine's community relations director.

"The ultimate goal is to get people out en masse to recognize that their small efforts in their own back yards, when combined with efforts at 70 other sites, really make a tremendous impact."

The magnitude of the cleanup reflects that area waterways such as the Jones Falls and Gwynn Falls lead to the Chesapeake Bay. Herring Run begins in Towson and ends in Baltimore County, at Back River.

The discarded candy bar wrappers and plastic bags, while ugly to look at, do not pose the biggest threat to the streams, organizers said.

"The ironic thing is, what people are doing today is probably the least significant from an environmental perspective," said Conrad Cordes, who supervised the cleanup of Herring Run between Harford and Belair roads.

Major concerns include the toll that invasive species take on the ecology and the need to plant more trees to help prevent pollutants and garbage from reaching the water.

"But if we can get people to come out here and say, `Oh, this is a nice place,' that's a significant start," Cordes said.

Yesterday's turnout at Herring Run Park was double what he expected. About 9 a.m., volunteers fanned out on both banks, brandishing hoes or sticks with nails on the end to stab trash. Some wore gloves paid for by a $9,485 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

Trash, much of it washed from streets and storm drains, was draped over the brush and logs like so much Spanish moss.

Linda Scheetz and her 15-year-old nephew Dan Aker staked out a tiny peninsula in the stream. They filled several trash bags to capacity and recovered a mangled box spring and part of a shopping cart.

"It's really meaningful to have this park here," Scheetz said. "I live less than two block away, and I'm here every day."

Scheetz has made the cleanup a tradition, but others, such as antiques dealer Pat Duggan, took part for the first time yesterday. They were joined by 12 members of Cub Scout Pack 342 from Dundalk.

"It helps keep it clean so everybody can enjoy it," said one of the Scouts, Dustin Bumgarner, a fifth-grader at Charlesmont Elementary School.

While Project Clean Stream is relatively new, residents around Herring Run Park have been tending to the area regularly for at least 27 years. That's when Bob and Betty Mayes of Arcadia started.

"It's gotten better," Bob Mayes said, noting that hot-water heaters and other bulk items are rare.

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