Sunday, September 17, 2000

Kids help clean waterways

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — They walked along the stream, boots and gym shoes disappearing in the shallow water and muck, plucking tire rims, scraps of metal, fuel drums, fencing, an air conditioner, many bottles, aluminum cans and a motocross tire.

        Chuck Weidner was shaking his head. He and his crew of kids were pulling things that defied logic — and good sense — from Banklick Creek in Kenton County.

        “It seems like some people go to a lot of trouble hauling that stuff down here,” said Mr. Weidner. “It would be easier to just haul it to a Dumpster.”

        They were just one of several crews of volunteers — 100 people total — who fanned out across Northern Kentucky Saturday morning to pick up the detritus of human society.

        The Banklick is a shallow, meandering creek that runs from Independence up into Covington, through Fort Wright, cuts back across Covington, Taylor Mill, then empties into the Licking River.

        Banklick, along with Elijah and Four Mile creeks in Boone and Campbell counties, got a cleanup. Called Creek Restoration In Kentucky (CRIK), it was organized by the Campbell County Jaycees, with guidance from Northern Kentucky Solid Waste Management and Sanitation District No. 1.

        “As I would go and check sewer lines, I would see deer running across a creek,” said Mike Madden, a coordinator with Sanitation District No. 1. “But in the same creek I would see car batteries and oil filters.”

        Last year, 76 people collected more than 19,000 pounds of refuse from the three creeks, including a couple of abandoned cars and a pair of motorcycles.

        “One of the great things about events like this is raising awareness,” said Nate Sturm, Solid Waste Management coordinator. “There's no agency right now whose jurisdiction is the garbage in the creeks. Other than concerned neighbors or some enlightened fishermen, it's a forgotten part of our landscape.”

        It's as much about biological damage as aesthet ics. A tire will become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. A ring from a six-pack can strangle waterfowl. The fluids from car batteries and appliances can further poison a stream.

        On Saturday, a slim thread of Banklick Creek that runs along Pioneer Park in Covington was picked over by Mr. Weidner's crew — James List, 13, of Edgewood; Erin Koch, 13, of Independence, and her brother, Kevin Koch, 11; and Cassandra Weidner, 10, Mr. Weidner's daughter.

        They walked along the stream bed followed by a front loader, picking up what was left of a sink, part of a washing machine, a child's wading pool in shreds, the rusting carcass of a bicycle.

        “It's been fun,” said James, who was wearing latex gloves under a pair of heavy industrial gloves. “I feel like I helped the environment.”

        The gloves on Kevin's hands were outsized as he rolled a tire rim too heavy for him through the shallow water. “We're helping clean up so people don't have to look at all the garbage,” said Kevin.

        Mr. Weidner said the kids were genuinely disturbed by what they found.

        “The most rewarding thing for me is that they get outraged,” said Mr. Weidner. “As long as kids feel that way it's good. They'll grow up that way, believing that.”


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