By Linda Dillman
How would you like to live in an environment contaminated by old tires, discarded equipment and trash of every size—including rusting automobiles?
Neither do the fish, turtles and other fauna that call local waterways home.
On Oct. 5, volunteers and Canal Winchester city staff will walk along and in Walnut Creek, starting a short distance upstream from the Walnut Woods Metro Park dog park area, clearing out tires tossed in and around the creek during the 12th annual creek sweep held in conjunction with the metro park.
Canal Winchester’s Urban Forester Dick Miller said volunteers are asked to meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Walnut Woods Metro Park office, 6723 Lithopolis Road, where park manager Mindi McConnell is providing breakfast. The tire sweep and creek cleanup along Walnut Creek will take place from 8-11 a.m. on Oct. 5.
“About 8 a.m., we walk and/or ride to the stream and begin our quest,” said Miller. “One group may float a boat from the elementary school campus downstream to meet us with a load of tires. Small watercraft are welcome, but there are portages around fallen trees in the stream bed. We have had volunteers as young as 12 wading with a supervisory adult. We wade upstream so the silt we kick up does not interfere with one’s vision through the knee deep water. For those who do not wade, we need people on the banks to pull rope tied tires up over six to 10 foot tall embankments and roll the tires to the pathways for pickup by tractor or trucks.”
Miller admitted the tire sweep is a wet and dirty job, but said the water seems to wash everything away.
“We are doing the right thing as those tires don’t belong in or along the stream. We are off the water by 11 a.m., so everyone can get home for lunch, football and possibly a nap,” said Miller.
According to Miller, throughout the last 11 years, over 400 tires were collected, with annual collections averaging 35 to 50 tires. There was an incident in 2016 of a large number of tires dumped along the stream bank, just outside the city limits, on land that now is being purchased to enlarge the park system.
Since the illegal dump was on private property at the time, the property owner was responsible for the clean-up.
Tires, like those in a buried dump that appears in the creek near Gender Road during high water events, are not the only auto-related debris found in and around the creek. Miller said a Pontiac Bonneville, Ford Bronco and various pieces of equipment that may have been part of a sod harvesting business years ago were also discovered in the area.
“I love to practice catch and release fishing for smallmouth bass,” said Miller. “The Walnut offers up a good smallmouth fishery and it burned-my-chops to see all the discarded tires and rusted equipment and cars in the streambed and along the banks. The surface water of the stream by state law is 100 percent open to those in small watercraft. The city has several stream access locations for bank fishing access that are underused.”
In recent years, the city started including Walnut Woods Metro Park in the tire sweep along the creek. The park system now covers the cost of hauling and transporting tires to a shredding facility on State Route 104 on the south side of Columbus.
In dressing for the tire sweep, Miller advises early October wading only requires blue jeans, a sweatshirt and ankle-high tennis shoes. Workers can also wear chest waders with wading boots.
“It depends on the air temperature and what you’re comfortable with,” said Miller. “I think a garden spade works best to dislodge semi-buried tires and I try to bring extra spades for those who want them. A 30 foot section of rope works great for hoisting tires up and over the bank.”
For information, contact Mindi McConnell, Metro Parks Manager at 614-836-2683, or Canal Winchester Urban Forester Dick Miller at 614-834-5110.