By Keith Gushard
VENANGO TOWNSHIP —
“We blew by the old record,” Jim Lang happily said Saturday night after completion of the 21st annual French Creek Cleanup.
Volunteers collected 35,720 pounds of bottles, cans, tires, car parts, shopping carts, old mattresses and other assorted junk from French Creek and its tributaries on Saturday in a community challenge contest sponsored by the French Creek Valley Conservancy.
That’s more than 50 percent above the previous record of 23,330 pounds gathered in 2012, according to Lang, who is president of the French Creek Valley Conservancy.
Saturday was the only the fifth year of the community challenge-based cleanup effort with prizes awarded to groups and individuals based on amounts found. Weigh-ins and a community picnic for volunteers were held Saturday afternoon at Sprague Farm and Brew Works near Venango.
Lang attributes the growth removal to the sheer number of people involved.
The event had 536 people registered in 2012, but this year there were 620 registered with almost 700 people in the creek, Lang said. This year, there were 12 corporate sponsored teams compared to six in 2012.
“Now, we’re finding more stuff with more people,” Lang said. “We’re doing the French Creek watershed not just French Creek, but its tributaries, too — Neason Run, Mill Run, Cussewago Creek. People love being part of it and want to be part of it.”
Lisa Miller of Meadville was one of those who wanted to take part.
“It’s good to get out and help the community,” she said. She helped by cleaning out debris from Tamarack Lake near Meadville with a group called the Friends of Tamarack Lake.
“There was a lot of glass,” said Mille, who lives near Tamarack. The lake, though now-drained, is to be repaired and refilled by the state. “There were a lot of old bottles found.”
Among the items Miller’s group found included a master brake cylinder from a Model A Ford.
“There’s more to do,” Sue DeArment, another member of Friends of Tamarack Lake, said with a smile.
Pat Barco of Conneaut Lake filled almost five large garbage with debris when he walked along the banks of French Creek on Meadville’s south side between the Mercer Street and Smock bridges.
“There were a lot of bottles under the (railroad) trestle and there were bottles and plastic under Smock Bridge, but I’m surprised there wasn’t more,” Barco said. “I think people are taking better care of the creek. The efforts like this are paying off.”
Ask why he was a willing participant to pull bottles and other junk from French Creek, Barco, who grew up in Meadville, had a simple answer.
“As a kid, I might have put one in there accidentally,” he said laughing.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.