Cleanups slated for portions of Stony and Mill creeks

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

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

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries needs the public’s help with cleanups of two area trout streams.

The streams are Stony Creek in Edinburg and Mill Creek in Mount Jackson. The cleanups will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, said Owen Heine, conservation police officer.

The targeted areas on these streams are sections of land that participate in a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries program that enables public fishing on private land.

The private lands adjacent to these bodies of water are experiencing problems with litter and liability concerns from landowners.

“I think a small minority of that litter comes from fishermen,” said Heine. “Most of the trash comes from people just hanging out, partying in the areas … but the trout fishermen are the ones that will suffer.”

Heine said the program has been losing more and more private land on which the public can fish in part because of the littering.

“Cedar Creek was traditionally a creek that was stocked; that’s completely gone from the program now,” said Heine. “We’ve lost most of Mill Creek… It’s a real concern and it’s a real problem that if the public doesn’t show up and help, there’s going to be a continuing trend of losing these streams.”

In addition to the litter, some landowners are concerned they’ll be held liable should an injury occur to a fisherman on their land. Heine says this worry is unnecessary.

“Code section 29.1-509 limits landowner liability,” said Heine. “If you don’t charge a fee for the public to access your property, if they are injured doing one of those activities, you’re not liable unless there is something obviously dangerous that you didn’t make them aware of… I don’t want the fear of liability to keep people from enjoying the outdoors. The point is to go out and enjoy. That’s why this code section exists.”

Cleanup volunteers will meet at Larkin’s Grocery Store near Edinburg for the Stony Creek cleanup and Grace United Church of Christ in Mount Jackson.

Aaron Bushong, from Bushong Contracting in Woodstock, is donating his time and a truck. Dexter Moomaw, of Cabin Hill Homes LLC in Woodstock, is also helping the cause by donating his time and a truck.

Heine, who is organizing the cleanups, urges the public to turn out and help maintain a good rapport between fishermen and landowners.

“The point is, the landowners don’t have to allow the public access to the (streams),” said Heine. “It’s kind of a good faith agreement to allow the people to fish… If we continue to lose mileage, we’re not going to have a trout stocked program in Shenandoah County… It’s important that people come out and help clean up on this cleanup day to help keep the streams clean.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com

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