Volunteers pitch in to clean up Snakey Creek

Stephanie and Amy Detzen, Michelle Griffin and Emily Thompson pulled more than plastic bags from the water — from used rubber tires to a child’s plastic swimming pool. (Photos/River Keepers)

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Cleaning up Snakey Creek has been on River Keepers’ to-do list for years. Over the last six weeks, those good intentions have finally come to pass.

Twelve groups totaling 53 volunteers have braved scrub brush, steep banks, dead trees in the water and slippery, boot-sucking mud over the past month to restore the half-mile-long creek – technically known as County Ditch 41 – that slithers across M.B. Johnson Park and dumps into the Red River. From Oct. 5 through last Friday, they have gathered more than 10,000 pounds of trash from the stream that flows into the Red River and hauled it up those treacherous banks to be hauled away.

River Keepers director Christine Holland says that, unlike cleaning the Red River, Snakey Creek presented more of a challenge. “We can clean the Red from canoes,” she explains. “For the creek, you have to get right down into it. We had to figure out a way to do it safely.” Low water levels made this the time to give it a brave but cautious try. Only adults were recruited, given the challenges of the terrain.

The volunteers arrived in sturdy waterproof boots and work gloves, prepared to do battle with the mostly man made mess. Stray plastic bags made up the largest part of their haul, not only snagged on trees overhead and bushes along the banks, but submerged in the creek’s torpid waters. “Some down on the bottom look like rocks at first,” Christine notes. “But when you poke them, they’re bags full of mud.”

Plastic bags, though, weren’t the only trash the volunteers retrieved. They retrieved 15 discarded rubber tires, along with occasional oddities like balls and at least one plastic children’s wading pool.

Countering the plague of wind-borne plastic has become one of the organization’s objectives. Other volunteers fashion reusable cloth bags from donated T shirts, then distribute them at community events.

“We’re constantly talking to people, urging them to avoid plastic bags,” the director says. “We find so many, many of them blowing around. 

We need to do better.”

Christine reports much of Snakey Creek is looking good again by now … but the fine fall weather didn’t last quite long enough to finish the job: “We needed just a little more time. Another week or so, and we’d have made it all the way to the Red. But we’ve got most of it looking good.”

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