Big Sweep’s big success: Volunteers remove trash from creek

By Haywood Waterways Association | Sep 23, 2013
Photo by: Christine O'Brien Students from the Fish and Wildlife Management Technology and the Forest Management Technology Department from Haywood Community College collect trash in Richland Creek downstream from Russ Avenue.

At this year’s Big Sweep stream cleanup event Saturday, Sept. 21, more than 60 volunteers removed 3,740 pounds of trash from Richland Creek. Forty students from the Fish and Wildlife Management Technology and the Forest Management Technology programs at Haywood Community College joined 20 students from the Peace Jam at Tuscola High School and Waynesville Middle School to make Richland Creek a more attractive place. The volunteers covered the 2.5-mile stretch from Frog Level to Lake Junaluska.

The volunteers removed many items from the creek including glass, plastic bottles, clothing, shopping bags, fishing line, tire rim, metal, an umbrella and two shopping carts.

“It is amazing we are getting so much trash. We clean this reach every year,” said Tucker Hobbs, a HCC student. “It is kind of sad to see all of the trash.”

But the day was not without its rewards.

“The students worked really hard in challenging, rainy conditions and they should be proud of their efforts,” said Shannon Rabby, lead instructor of Fish and Wildlife Management Technology at HCC. “I am very happy that we were able to remove so much material this year. This is a great example of what can be accomplished when a community works together to improve the environment.”

Mike Gillespie’s Peace Jam group focused on the Frog Level reach.

“I am inspired by these young people as they provide stewardship to our community,” said Gillespie.

Trash makes its way into streams by storm drains and careless people. Each rain event washes trash, toxic automobile fluid and other pollutants from parking lots into a storm drain. From there, the pollutants are dumped — untreated — into a stream. Much of the trash, particularly plastics, can take hundreds of years to decompose. Besides being ugly, trash is bad for wildlife and can clog storm drains and pipes, which can cause flooding as well as problems for water users such as industry and agriculture.

Those who would like to help keep Haywood County water the best it can be should consider volunteering for a stream cleanup. There are 13 groups that are part of Haywood Waterways Association Adopt-A-Stream program — adopt your own stream, or sign up with another group.

For more information, contact Christine at or 550-4869, or visit