Pollution is a common issue in waterways across the country. It’s especially evident in the city of Jacksonville, where several bodies of water are riddled with garbage and toxic chemicals. While occasional cleanup efforts are taking place around town from a number of groups, it’s still not enough to restore our waterways to the pristine state that they should be in.
McCoy’s Creek, located in the Lackawanna area, travels through north Riverside and is an example of how occasional cleanups aren’t making that much of an impact. Waterway stewards, Eric Bersinger and Josh Woods, are the founders of the Clean Waterway Society. They’ve made it their mission to clear out creeks, streams, and lakes across the First Coast. As stewards, Bersinger and Woods clean up trash, clear out debris and invasive plant growth.
The pair, along with other volunteers, mostly friends and family, have done cleanup projects at McCoy’s creek, Durbin creek, and Pottsburg creek. Although the Clean Waterway Society has had successful cleans ups in the past, and have been able to maintain those areas, like their efforts at Durbin Creek, which has now become ideal for kayaking, other efforts have not been so successful. McCoy’s creek has been deemed a lost cause.
Woods admits that they’ve gone out and done clean ups at McCoy’s creek, and after following up, it looks like nothing had been done at all.
“Oh yeah, it happens all the time, says Woods regarding repeated efforts to clean up McCoy’s Creek. We’ve pulled out everything you can imagine. Tires, shopping carts, I even pulled a vending machine out once. He admits it can get frustrating and the city needs to do more, but understands that they don’t because, the budget keeps getting cut.
Bersinger says that the trash ending up in the creeks are from different sources. Illegal dumping, fishermen, liter trickling in from the highway, flooding, and those residing in the area all contributed or are contributing to the poor state the creeks have been in. Bersinger feels that regardless of how the trash gets there, in spite of their efforts,it still has to be cleaned up. We don’t care who put it there –it just needs to be cleaned. We have a group of committed volunteers, mostly in the paddling community. And we just get out, have fun, and pick it up, says Bersinger.
People may not understand that the smaller bodies of water feed into the St. Johns River. The St. Johns, which stretches 310 miles, is not in an ideal state says St. Johns River Keeper Lisa Rinaman, especially in the Jacksonville area. Rinaman, who isn’t a native to Jacksonville, fell in love with the St. Johns River when she moved here over 20 years ago. She says that we all have to share the responsibility of getting the waterways clean and keeping them clean.
You can go to stjohnsriverkeeper.org to find out how to be river friendly, like picking up after your pets, using no fertilizer or slow-release fertilizer, Rinaman explains. She continues, So there’s simple things, and we can also do the big things, like working together and asking our elected officials to value our river and to protect her.
There are a number of groups who hold their own clean ups, or partner together with other groups for larger projects. We were not able to speak to a city employee regarding the city’s efforts to make sure out waterways stay clean, however, according to the COJ.com website, a recent St. Johns River clean up event took place in mid-March.
The next city sponsored clean up won’t be until July, which will be for the beaches areas. There are no other clean up events for inner waterways scheduled for the remainder of the year. With littering taking place on a regular basis, one, maybe two cleanup events or projects a year won’t be enough to combat the pollution that is causing our creeks, lakes, and river to reach a slow decline. Whether it’s kayaking, fishing, boating, or just taking in the scenery, these are among the favorite past times for the residence of the River City. We have to make sure we do our part in preserving our resources for the marine life, as well as for our continued enjoyment.