Saturday, May 2, 2015

Cleaning the Watershed

Turkey Mountain had it's most successful clean up day to date, and we worked with the YMCA to clean up the Mooser Creek watershed. A watershed is an area of land where all rain water runoff runs into a particular stream or river. Mooser Creek is fed by over 6 square miles of land east from as far south as Tulsa Hills, and as far west at Towne West. This stream--possibly the last free flowing stream in the Tulsa Area, runs on the norther edge of the Y property, and runs just south of the Pepsi Plant ind finally into the Arkansas River.

Over 150 people came and helped by my "preacher's count." We were treated to Bagels and coffee--the breakfast of champions, and then listened to a briefing from a city of Tulsa representative about how pollutants enter the ecosystem, the negative affects of this, and the fines that are sometimes imposed on violators.

Cheryl Cheadle used a land module to illustrate how unintentional contamination occurs, and where toxic substances filter into our streams and rivers. She did a marvelous job of explaining how fertilizer, leaking motor oil and anti-freeze, silt from new construction, and even grass clippings can have a major adverse affect our fish and wildlife downstream.. I am certain this presentation made an impact of the young onlookers.

We were issued safety vests, gloves, trash bags, grabbers, and first aid kits, and we chose up teams and went to different parts of the Mooser Creek watershed.

The team I hung out with included Mitch, Sarah, Russell, Tim, and Michelle. We parked near the old Pepsi Bridge with the plans to scrub Pepsi Lake. Our march in was pretty much litter-free--as if someone had beat us to the punch. Oh, there was an old pile of dumped trash on the cabled-off bridge left from a clean up day last year when we overfilled a large dump truck. Unfortunately, this pile of rubbish will have to wait until we have another dump truck at this seldom used entrance. 

I had the distinction of finding the first piece of litter--and I had to dig for it. We decided it was a Vienna sausage can. All aluminum and glass was kept separate for recycling purposes. 

Russell and I took the northern shore of Pepsi Lake. The recent rains has nearly filled this lake. I used to think this lake was no more than 3-4 feet deep, but during the drought the past few years, I can see that it's probably 15-20 feet deep ion the center when full. If this lake comes up another 3-4 feet, we'll have a spectacular water fall just north  of the lake.

Russell and I used the grabbers and snagged two trash bags full of  cans and bottles--most filled with mud. A lot of out cache was afloat 6-8 feet out in the water, so I assumed the wading duties. I did this for a couple of reasons. The obvious--it netted more unsightly litter, and secondly, I probably washed off a lot of chiggers.

After out team had covered the perimeter of the lake, we had enough time to hit another heavily littered area: the location--an area we used to call the Blue Roof Inn.
Atop the hill to the east of Pepsi Lake, there is an old homeless camp that has tons of trash. There used to be an old homestead here as evidenced by an stone root cellar, and footings for a couple of smallish structures. This root cellar at one time had a huge blue tarp tented over it, and who knows what kind of people lived here. I felt it was not at all a safe place to run by, and the mountain of trash grew exponentially. There was rumors of a pretty serious crime here about 8 years ago, and either authorities or vigilantes dismantled the camp and burned the remaining trash and filth in the bottom of the old cellar.

Years later, there have been a few squatters here off and on. These hammocks are sort of new. The usual beer cans and porn magazines were replaced with innocent enough paperback books and even a bible. We found a couple of wet and moldy backpacks, one of which had a bluegrass gospel cassette. Everything here had been abandoned and destroyed, and we packed maybe 10% of it out.

I picked up mud covered coat and found a couple of snakes squiggling every-which way. Knowing these were a safe snake to handle, I gently caught this little guy. He actually seemed to enjoy being held--would have made a good pet, but I let him/her go.

Not a bad haul for about 90 minutes work, huh?

Photographer Laurie Biby tried to round up everyone for a group picture. At this point, there were still a few people out picking up trash, and some people just getting to the Y to help, and about a dozen helpers in the shelter behind us preparing to serve us Rib Crib for lunch.

Pictured above are entries for weirdest piece of trash picked up. The bike helmet was my find. The bone next to it was found by our group. We decided it was a hip bone from a small animal. The yellow thing was a working thermometer. The hand grenade was a toy. The Busch beer was unopened. The rubber thing next to the blender was found by our group. It looked like a rubber mold of a HUGE hand. The black baby doll was a little on the creepy side--but I have a real fear of dolls. 

The contest winner was decided by applause or lack thereof, and to my surprise, an old computer won the top honor as strangest piece of trash collected.

Some of the volunteers actually got right down into Mooser Creek and went upstream. I have been in the creek wading westward, and it is indeed a beautiful unappreciated stream. There will be another Mooser Creek clean up in the future. Next time, I want to go Lewis and Clark on it.

I am always impressed with the all the people who take their Saturday and come out in droves to help with these clean up days. These are my kind of people. These are my friends.

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