More than 13 tons of garbage were removed from French Creek while hundreds of new trees were planted within its watershed during the 29th annual French Creek Cleanup on Saturday.
While the amount collected varies from year to year, it usually falls within a range of 25,000 to 30,000 pounds, or 12.5 to 15 tons, according to Brenda Costa, executive director of the French Creek Valley Conservancy. The conservancy coordinates the cleanup each year in early September with the help of hundreds of volunteers and sponsors.
This year, more than 800 volunteers from 51 groups helped either with collecting 26,375 pounds of trash or with planting 350 trees as part of land stewardship projects within the watershed, according to Costa.
This year's event also marked the second year of land stewardship projects within the watershed.
Volunteers planted 250 trees at Mammoth Run, an 86-acre site owned by the conservancy on the east side of Conneaut Lake, plus did general cleanup. Volunteers also planted 100 trees on Cussewago Meanders, a 191-acre property the conservancy has in Vernon Township along Cussewago Creek, a major tributary of French Creek.
In addition, Costa said volunteers did trail maintenance at Lew’s Land, a 48-acre property in Vernon Township off Route 322 near Interstate 79, and at Brock’s Lookout, a 7.5-acre property in Woodcock Township along French Creek off Route 19 and Morris Road.
All of those properties are among the more than 3,000 acres the conservancy owns and protects within the French Creek watershed. The watershed goes from Sherman in southwestern New York state south into Pennsylvania through Erie, Crawford, Mercer and Venango counties before French Creek joins the Allegheny River at Franklin.
Costa called this year's volunteer effort a great success thanks to a perfect day weather-wise.
"It was in line with what we expected," she said of volunteers gathering a total of 26,375 pounds of assorted garbage and discarded junk from within the watershed. In 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 525 volunteers in 44 groups were able to collect 23,950 pounds.
There were a number of interesting items found during the cleanup including a giant stuffed rabbit found by members of Meadville Medical Center's team. It was deemed the most unusual item found, Costa said.
Other notable items included a statue of Buddha and pair of shoes that looked like giant sandals, but were actually spiked screeding shoes, Costa said. Screeding shoes are worn when flattening out poured concrete or flooring mortar prior to finishing the surface.
The traveling Hellbender Trophy, which annually goes to corporate-sponsored teams, will go to Acutec Precision Aerospace Inc. for collecting 5,780 pounds, Costa said. A formal presentation to the company will be made in the coming weeks.
Meadville Bulldog Hockey had the most participants for a civic group with 21 who helped unload garbage at the weigh-in held at Voodoo Brewing Co.'s Compound on Bessemer Street. Participants in this year's cleanup were treated to a picnic and live music at Voodoo as a reward for their efforts.
Allegheny College and Seton School will split a $1,000 prize for science education from the Peter Yeager Foundation, Costa said.
The 30th annual French Creek Cleanup already is scheduled for Sept. 10, 2022.
Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.