Public turns out to clean up streams

The cleanups of portions of Stony and Mill creeks that took place Saturday were a success, said Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Conservation Police Officer Owen Heine.

“I think it was a success as far as the public sentiment … It was needed. The poundage of trash we threw away was evidence of that,” said Heine.

The event’s success was not only measured in trash collected but also access gained. Heine said at least two landowners have agreed to allow their land to be used in the department’s program that allows public use of certain sanctioned private lands for trout fishing.

“Two have verbally committed to joining,” said Heine. “One purchased a property in 2005 that prior to that had been in the program and they’ve agreed to be in the program again. I’ve got a contract set up.”

The event’s turnout was good, said Heine, and could have been larger.

“I’m going to go with 12 at Mill Creek, not including government staff, and then we had anywhere from 25 to 40 is the estimated number that showed up at Stony Creek,” said Heine. “It wasn’t a true count though because Larkin’s caught fire, so some people didn’t know we met there, and just started picking up right away.”

The groups collected 2,800 pounds of trash from Mill Creek and an estimated 2,000 pounds from Stony Creek. Heine said the trash was a mixture of things and for some of it, the only origin was dumping, which is the exact kind of refuse landowners had complained about – items that couldn’t have flowed down from elsewhere.

“[There were] plenty of drink bottles and other normal types of trash you would see on the side of the road,” said Heine. “There was a king-sized mattress, a bunch of steel from old buildings, and that was at a dumpsite.”

Heine said the participants were a mix of fishermen and concerned residents.

“There were some that came just for the concern,” said Heine. “I would say the majority were trout fishermen themselves or just fishermen. It was a mixture of people but most of the ones I saw were people who I’ve seen when we’re stocking.”

Heine said that he wants to make this an annual event and hopes that the creation of an event-like atmosphere will drive awareness of the cleanups.

“I had a lot of people that told me they found out after the fact and they said, ‘If I would have known I would have been there,'” said Heine. “‘Let me know if you do it next year, I’ve got this group that wants to (be a) part.’ If we make it an annual event, people will be looking for it in March and April. To have that many people and collect that much trash on the first try I think is pretty good.”

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