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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Really Up a Creek

Friday, November 25, 2011

While it may look as though someone has set up a defacto family room in the student parking lot at Greencastle High School, in reality it is just a portion of the trash collected from nearby creek banks as GHS students in John Garner's environmental science class and the Environmental Science Club recently conducted a clean-up effort along Big Walnut Creek. [Order this photo]
Creek clean-up a tireless effort by GHS group

Driving the twisting, turning Creek Road west of Greencastle, along the banks of the Big Walnut, you never know what you might see.

Camo-clad hunters carrying rifles. Stray dogs, of course. A herd of deer. Occasionally a coyote or even a sly old fox. Sometimes summertime sunbathers.

But most of the time way, way too much trash. You might even say a river of trash runs through it.

Junk is unceremoniously dumped along the road and in the creek by thoughtless, inconsiderate local residents. Trash that ultimately pollutes the landscape and the water and turns what could be a beautiful rural setting into a defacto dump.

Earlier this fall it looked as though someone had tossed an entire household out there. Furniture, clothes, appliances, housewares, even kittens.

Hundreds of people drive through the area daily. Maybe they shake their heads and complain to the guy or gal sitting next to them, but seldom does anyone stop and do anything about such eyesores.

Enter the Greencastle High School's environmental science class and Environmental Science Club and GHS science teacher John Garner.

"We covered an area from West Walnut Street all the way to the beach just past Oakalla Covered Bridge," Garner said. "This is a quiet area where trash is often dumped."

Part of what they collected has been displayed on the traffic island at the south end of the GHS student parking lot. They dragged in four couches (three in stylish plaid), an oak coffee table minus its glass surface, a computer keyboard from the Reagan administration, an old whitewall tire and even the top of an artificial Christmas tree.

"We brought in couches and other items that would not blow away," Garner said, noting the clean-up also produced about 50 large bags of trash.

"Several of the couches could have found homes but not after sitting out several months," he assessed. "There was a large amount of clothing which could have been taken to Goodwill. The strong stream in late spring and early summer also washed some trash downstream."

The group even removed some discarded toys, an old toilet and a fossilized washer that took hours to dig out.

Garner and his GHS students were inspired four years ago while reading "From The Bottom Up" by Chad Pregracke. The author, who was in his early 20s when he decided to clean up a portion of the Mississippi River, visited and spoke at GHS as well as at DePauw University.

Later that same year Garner and company started policing the banks of the Big Walnut.

"The first few years we had a lot more trash," the veteran GHS science teacher recalled.

And the group has certainly grown tired of old tires, picking up more than 100 over the four years, Garner says.

"Many of those tires were buried deep in the creek," he lamented. "Last year someone had dumped about 20 tires out there but this year we only found a couple."

The students also got a firsthand look at just how inconsiderate the public at large can be, watching one of their clean-up efforts essentially go for naught.

"Last fall my class was at the beach by Oakalla Bridge (west of West Walnut Street Road in Madison Township) the Wednesday after our clean-up," Garner recalled, "and someone had already dumped a truckload with golf clubs and a playpen."

The latest clean-up effort on Oct. 29 paired Garner and GHS biology teacher Brad Kingma with just two GHS students, Dylan Linton and Anthony Hyde.

"In the past we've had up to 30 students," Garner said, "but we put off the date and there were a lot of school activities. When we brought the trash to the school to display, students Nathan Peck, Cassidy Crawford, Fred Soster and Stephanie Penturf all helped."

Nonetheless, the effort left big impressions on GHS students.

"Dumping is a continuous problem," said senior Hyde, who has been involved in all the GHS clean-up efforts thus far. "It would be nice if people stopped."

Linton, who was also creekside during the latest effort, was shocked to see all the discarded apparel thrown into the weeds.

"It is amazing," he said, "how much usable clothing people just throw away."

Crawford, meanwhile, came closest to hitting the nail on the head.

"I am disappointed," she said, "by these individuals' lack of respect for the environment."

There was an old commercial targeting such dumping. It ended with the tagline: "Every litter bit hurts."

Along Big Walnut Creek, it's nice to know GHS students care. After all, it is also true that every little bit helps.

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In the past I went to enjoy an evening or afternoon along the creek and I couldn't stand the sight of the place for all the junk people left along with there trash. So I departed the premises disappointed. So I want to say Thank You John Gardner and Thanks go to all your pupils who helped clean up the creek. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

-- Posted by tksutherlin on Fri, Nov 25, 2011, at 10:37 AM

So very greatful to those that are cleaning up the area! While reading this, I cant help but also be thankful for the police finding the body out there instead of those kids!

-- Posted by jm46135 on Fri, Nov 25, 2011, at 10:49 AM

Looks like a good place to hide a trailcam.

-- Posted by turtle10 on Fri, Nov 25, 2011, at 11:41 AM

Many thanks to all who clean up the roads, the effort is appreciated by those of us who live in the county.

There is a significant litter problem along many county roads. Next to the Big Four Arches Bridge the landscape is riddled with old bottles, spray-paint cans, fast-food trash and the like. In front of my own property I pick up 3-4 bags of litter every year and that is just a drop in the bucket of the trash that inconsiderate slobs dump out of their vehicles every year. Given the number of bottles and cans that show up, which is significant, I would certainly support a deposit law like they have in Michigan. I lived there when that law went into effect and the roadsides began to show almost immediate improvement. This won't solve the problem of couches and tires, but it might just get people to think a little about the world around them.


-- Posted by David Worthington on Fri, Nov 25, 2011, at 2:33 PM

Thanks for cleaning up, it is deeply appreciated. I always wonder how the people who dump the trash out along the creeks and country roads would like it if someone dump their trash on their front lawn.

Clothing and furniture can be taken to the Seniors place for free. Clothing and misc items can be taken to the Goodwill store for free. It takes the same amount of effort and some good will come from it.

-- Posted by jg81 on Fri, Nov 25, 2011, at 3:19 PM

If everybody stopped whining about it and when taking a walk would help clean it up .Instead of waiting for someone else to do it ,Then thank them for cleaning it up ,Do it your self it would be alot better,When i go Ginseng hunting or mushroom hunting if i see trash in the woods or on the side of the road i pick it up Not wait for someone else to do it and then thank them for there work,I am not lazy like that.

-- Posted by katjr1010 on Fri, Nov 25, 2011, at 3:36 PM

Just recently in Parke Co. I have seen a couch dumped at the side of a well used paved road and just yesterday a bathroom stool sitting by a light pole at an intersection to two roads (one a very heavily used road). On my own stretch of road I get the usual cups & food containers, soda cans etc... that my dog so graciously brings into my yard. I usually pick up trash once or twice a year from alongside the road - really ticks me off. The inside of my car may not always look pristine but at least I am not leaving my trash for someone else to worry about. Keep a grocery bag in your car for trash & take it in with you once a week.

-- Posted by indianamama on Mon, Nov 28, 2011, at 12:04 PM

Where's all the people who got on me when I complained about being able to fish at waterworks. Guess they care about their own.

-- Posted by Putnamman99 on Mon, Nov 28, 2011, at 3:52 PM

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