Haywood Waterways Adopt-A-Stream Groups Get Busy for Big Sweep

By Jane Falkenstein | Sep 25, 2012
Mike Gillespie gets busy hauling trash out of Richland Creek during Big Sweep 2012.

Haywood Waterways Association started an Adopt-A-Stream program in 2009 to help clean up Haywood County Rivers and streams.  Since then, thousands of pounds of trash have been pulled out of Haywood County waters by dedicated volunteers.  The huge rain event that preceded this year’s Big Sweep brought more than the usual storm water runoff and volunteers like Mike Gillespie, DDS, were very busy last Saturday. 


Gillespie was fishing in Richland Creek years ago when he realized that the trash in the creek was so bad that he couldn’t really enjoy the experience.  He got busy that day, pulling everything from car mats to diapers out of the water and hasn’t stopped since.  Gillespie started an Adopt-A-Stream group in 2009 with his children and their friends.  Gillespie’s Richland Creek Stream Keepers were Haywood Waterways Volunteer Group of the Year that year.  He has continued to watch over Richland Creek the Depot St. bridge area. 


While his children have grown and have interests of their own, Gillespie thinks they still have a heightened sense of the importance of keeping our waterways clean and not using them as dumping grounds for their trash.  Gillespie subscribes to what he calls “The Broken Window Theory.”  Says “Gillespie, “This means that if nothing gets fixed in this world, it just gets worse.  Keeping our waterways clean acts as a preventive measure, to make sure they stay clean.”


Christine O’Brien, Haywood Waterways Adopt-A-Stream coordinator, agrees wholeheartedly.  “Every one of us has a responsibility to take good care of our natural resources.  We can all be self-starters and do what we can to keep our water clean.  It doesn’t have to mean filling a truck full of trash from a river or stream, although we are very thankful that some groups here in Haywood County do that.  Every little bit of trash is a statement to others, including tourists who come here to enjoy our beautiful waters, that we don’t care.  I’d rather be able to point to our waterways with pride and say that everyone in Haywood County cares enough to keep our waters clean.”


O’Brien practices what she preaches, and helped several groups along Allens and Richland creeks last Saturday.  Along with Sara Martin from Haywood Community College’s Sustainability Club, they collected close to 900 pounds of trash from Allens Creek.  Mike Gillespie’s adopted section of Richland Creek under the Depot Street bridge yielded a hefty load.  Tom Anspach, another Adopt-A-Stream volunteer, took a pickup full from the Pigeon River near Canton.  Shannon Rabby and his HCC Wildlife Club volunteers beat their 2011 record of 1.5 tons of trash from their section of Richland Creek. 


In between hauling empty sweet tea containers out of Allens Creek near Pet Smart, HCC instructor Sara Martin paused when asked why she takes the time to participate in Big Sweep.  “We all have lots to do these days, but I think that the most important legacy we can leave for the future is a clean and sustainable environment.  We have to be a good example for those around us as well as those who follow us.  That’s why my students and I participate as part of our Adopt-a-Stream commitment to keep our waters free of what doesn’t belong there.”


Haywood Waterways continues to look for individuals and groups that enjoy working outdoors, helping the environment, and want to make a difference locally to adopt a section of a stream for the purpose of removing litter.  Local businesses, civic organizations, nonprofit groups, academic institutions and individuals can all be part of the Adopt-A-Stream program.  Basically, anyone adopting a section of a stream or river must clean their adopted section at least once a year and commit to the adopted stream section for at least two years.  Each adopted stream will receive an Adopt-A-Stream sign free of charge.

For more information on how you can join the Adopt-A-Stream program, contact Christine at Christine.haywoodwaterways@gmail.com.  You learn more about Adopt-A-Stream in Haywood County by going to www.haywoodwaterways.org.