When you think about a scavenger hunt, especially ones out in nature, you probably think about “Find a fern”, “Find a flower”, “Find three different kinds of leaves”. You probably don’t think about a pop can, a flip-flop, and…a microwave?
Well, if you’ve ever participated in a stream cleanup, you know that pop cans, flip-flops, and yes, microwaves, are on a long and colorful list of items you might come across.
When Liz was in grade school, a wise teacher once told her, “If you want things to change, change has to start with you.” With that philosophy in mind, the Conewango Creek Watershed Association (CCWA) will be holding their first ever “virtual” stream cleanup during the month of May. If you have ever attended a Conewango Creek Cleanup, this one is going to look a little different. Instead of having one big gathering on one day, the annual spring cleanup will be done in family groups, wherever they want and whenever they want. What this means is more flexibility for participants. Considering the Conewango Creek Watershed spans almost 900 square miles covering parts of Warren, Chautauqua, and Cattaraugus Counties I would say there is no shortage of places you can go. You also have 31 days to choose from and you can go out more than once!
So, the next question is, “Why?”. “Why should I spend time picking up other people’s garbage? I didn’t put it there.” One of many answers is, community pride. With Chautauqua Lake and the Kinzua Reservoir, this area is a great location for tourism with a lot of outdoor recreation opportunities. When visitors come to our home, naturally we want to make a good impression.
Besides the obvious aesthetic benefits of having litter-free recreational areas, there is the additional benefit of having clean water. Liz Dropp, CCWA Chair, reminds us that, “Our environment is very important to everyone; industries, recreation, and wildlife all need water. Even if you’re not an ‘outdoors person’ you still need water.” One goal CCWA has for their annual cleanups (besides getting trash out of the environment) is having people think about the big picture and consider what impact their actions have, not only on the environment, but on public health and safety.
I have never met a person more passionate about stream cleanups than CCWA Board Member Sue Nielsen. When I asked Sue why these events are so important to her, she said, “I’m in nature to relax, decompress, and get a workout in to escape stress. Garbage detracts from the beauty of my surroundings; it detracts from the outdoor experience.”
By holding annual cleanups, CCWA is trying to set an example for others to follow. Sue describes cleanups as a scavenger hunt; you never know what you’re going to find. You might even find something useful; seriously, it’s happened. CCWA Secretary Judy Haller also believes that cleanups are a chance for people to get outdoors. They feel a sense of accomplishment when they consider that pile of trash they collected, knowing it’s no longer polluting our trails and waterways.
If you’re looking for a way to make a difference in your community, go to www.conewangocreek.org to preregister for this year’s cleanup. Click on ‘Conewango Watershed Virtual Spring Cleanup Registration’ under Recent News, then click the red button to the left of the screen and fill out the information. Places to pick up supplies (trash bags, gloves, etc.) will be listed on the website. Once you register you will get a confirmation email. Closer to the event, CCWA will email a reminder and a short survey that will let them know how you did. They’re always curious about unusual items people find.