Volunteers hoist old tractor tire into john boat during Gunpowder… (Kara Brown, Greater Baltimore…)
Back River isn't the only Baltimore area water body cluttered with used tires. The Gunpowder River, arguably one of the region's most popular recreational water ways, has its share, too.
Gunpowder Falls State Park draws anglers, kayakers, picnickers, swimmers and scads of tubers - so many, in fact, that friction has arisen over the transformation of the river through northern Baltimore County into what critics call a "superhighway of tubing." Other users complain they're being driven from the water, while property owners complain about trespassing and littering.
In June, a Monkton man was arrested after kayakers reported someone was shooting at them while they practiced maneuvers on the water near Blue Mount Road. The man complained to police that people traveling down the Gunpowder have littered his property with trash and beer cans, and that the kayakers cursed at him and refused to move on when he told them to leave the area of the river near his property.
Paddling enthusiasts acknowledge there's a litter problem, but say they're part of the solution, not the problem. The Greater Baltimore Canoe Club (which includes kayakers) has held cleanups on the Gunpowder for years, one of its former officers points out.
"Predominantly we have removed tires, but sadly there is a neverending supply of miscellaneous trash too," Kara Brown, a former club president, wrote in an email.
At the last litter roundup in June, she says, paddlers wrestled about 85 used tires from the water, plus assorted other debris - including a Baltimore Sun newspaper box.
"We walk the river pulling out tires, not nearly as easy as it sounds as they are full of sand and have to be emptied out," Brown reports. The tires get loaded on bass and john boats, which are then floated downstream to a community park beach, where their cargo is off-loaded onto a trailer for hauling away. The water transit alone can take five to six hours, she says.
After working over the upper river for years, and seeing some improvement, the group has shifted its focus downstream to the tidal stretch from US 40 to the Chesapeake Bay. Its next cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 18.
UPDATE: The cleanup has been postponed because the weather forecast included a chance of thunderstorms, reports Leonard Huffines, the canoe club member who's been leading the effort. It's now planned for Saturday, Aug. 25, weather permitting. Huffines reports that 230 tires have been hauled from the river to date, but at least 40 more were left to wrestle out after the June cleanup. Volunteers are welcome, though Huffines asks that anyone interested contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org