|Stream Team leader Tim Williamson briefs volunteers before Soapstone clean-up, November 20, 2010.|
A cell phone. A camera. A sweatshirt. All items one might take along for a hike through the woods, so I shouldn't have been surprised when a group of volunteers found all of these things during a clean-up in Rock Creek Park. But I was. To the casual observer, such as myself, Rock Creek Park appears a natural sanctuary surrounded by but removed from the city. Hikers, storm water runoff and other causes, however, carry pollution and litter into the river.
Saturday morning, I joined about 20 volunteers as part of a Friends of Rock Creek's Environment (FORCE) Stream Team to help clean-up Soapstone, a tributary of Rock Creek. The Soapstone Stream Valley Trail runs about a mile from Albemarle and 32nd Streets to Broad Branch Road. Admittedly, the cell phone, camera and sweatshirt were some of the more unusual items we collected from this span of the park. In less than three hours, the group collected a total of 11 bags of trash and three bags of recyclables, much of it styrofoam, paper, plastic bags and bottles.
|Leaves float in Soapstone, November 20, 2010.|
"I've always noticed litter in the area," said Tim Williamson, the FORCE Soapstone Valley Stream Team Leader. "After I read about Sylvia Earle's Mission Blue and learned about the amount of trash in the ocean, I wanted to make other people aware. There's a garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean that some say is larger than the state of Texas, and a lot of that trash comes from the land. Plastic bottles and litter float from our rivers to the bays, and from the bays to the ocean.
"I can't say that what we're doing today is making a huge impact on the ocean, but we are all responsible for where we live. I hope to encourage people to make that connection, between the choices they make and the environment."
Sometimes making those choices doesn't have to be too difficult. Something else surprised me about the clean-up: it was fun. Some volunteers brought friends, while others made new ones. All of us learned more about the river, and how our neighborhood is connected to it. And I think everyone felt a sense of accomplishment when we regrouped and realized we had collectively removed 14 large bags of trash from the river.
The Soapstone Valley Stream Team will join others for a park-wide clean-up of Rock Creek on April 9, 2011. If you are interested in joining a Stream Team or volunteering for the April 9 event, contact FORCE.