Second annual stream clean up takes place on Saturday

Owen Heine, a state conservation police officer, points to a trash along Stony Creek near Columbia Furnace that was left behind by trout anglers. Heine is coordinating a spring cleanup effort scheduled for May 7 to pick up trash that is left on private land along the banks of Mill and Stony Creeks by trout fisherman. Rich Cooley/Daily

The second annual Landowner Appreciation Stream Clean Up Day is taking place this Saturday at Mill Creek and Stony Creek in Shenandoah County.

According to Owen Heine, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries conservation police officer, the event was started last year after some landowners had threatened to pull out of an agreement allowing people to fish on their properties.

Before last year’s event, Heine said, there were major littering problems at Mill Creek and Stony Creek. In the four-hour event last year, a group of about 50 people picked up almost 3 tons of trash in the two creeks, including a king-sized mattress and an oil pump.

Since then, there have been fewer problems and more people willing to allow private fishing on their land, Heine said.

“We added about a mile of new stream that we brought back into the program,” he noted.

Heine credits the decreasing litter problem to several factors. Some of the change has come from simple maintenance; it’s only been a year since the two creeks last received a major clean-up.

But he said he also suspects that last year’s event changed how people behaved on the private property. Some people who previously littered in the two creeks have since stopped doing so, he said, while others have started cleaning up other people’s litter when they’ve seen it.

“Whatever it is, I’m glad that it’s cleaner now than it was 12 months ago,” Heine said.

But while the littering problem has improved since last year, it hasn’t gone away. Heine said that after last May’s event, people at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries had to haul an abandoned car out of one of the creeks. And there’s still plenty of trash out there for people to pick up.

Because of last year’s event and the flyers Heine has posted in nearby locations – at Larkin’s Grocery and the 7-Eleven in Mount Jackson, as well as at various locations along the creek – Heine said he is hoping for a bigger turnout than he got last year.

The event is taking place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday.  Volunteers planning to help clean up Mill Creek will meet at Grace United Church of Christ in Mount Jackson, while those who are cleaning up Stony Creek will meet at Larkin’s Grocery in Edinburg.

Trash bags will be provided on site, and a driver for Cabin Hill Homes LLC will take all of the collected bags to the landfill.

Contact staff writer Max Lee at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or mlee@nvdaily.com