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Published: Tuesday, 6/13/2006

Litter grows faster than volunteers can pick it up

Maybe you can't beat them, but please don't join them - slobs who litter the region's waterways and roadways, that is.

Brian Bury, state wildlife officer in Sandusky County, might be thinking just that these days. Get this:

The fish and game lawman for three years has been organizing a fishing-stuff and litter cleanup along the Sandusky River in the Fremont area.

The event is held the first Monday night in June, after the walleye and white bass runs, and is aimed at tidying up after what is hoped to be just a handful of slobs who wrongly think that being a fisherman is akin to being a human pig.

The cleanup zone runs from the city's Rodger Young Park all the way to County Road 129 north of town, focusing on fishing access sites. Bury on June 5, this year's cleanup day, designated a crew just for Road 129 because it was a littered mess.

"This was Friday - four days after we picked up all that trash," states Bury about his tale. He and Brad St. Clair, state wildlife officer from Van Wert County, "worked" a little anti-litter project along the Road 129 stretch of the river.

"Numerous groups of people were fishing during the night and 13 contacts led to eight summons being issued for stream litter and one for no fishing license. Additionally, two juveniles were given warnings for no fishing license and littering. In all 11 of 13 people contacted were in violation.

"The litterbugs left behind nine beer bottles, four fast-food cups, fast-food wrappers and bags, and numerous bait containers."

Imagine. Such antics come as no surprise to veteran "ditchpigs" - those stalwart individuals who volunteer to clean up after low-voltage slobs. But it still is, ahem, frustrating.

Bury said 31 folks helped on the third annual Sandusky River cleanup, including 20 doing court-ordered community service.

The rest of the volunteers were from the Sandusky County Sportsmen's Club, Fremont Chapter/Izaak Walton League of America, Coon Creek Hunt Club, and Sandusky County Chapter/National Wild Turkey Federation.

Lee's Chicken, of Fremont, got a leg up on other fast-food establishments by offering a free chicken dinner to cleanup volunteers.

"We picked up 80 to 90 bags of trash from the river," said Bury. "Additionally we got about 20 [wood] pallets." Casual fishermen use these like stepladders against the downtown Fremont floodwall.

"Not too much of interest to note in the trash. [The gagging amount of wads of tangled, spent fishing line was unreal, and a special shame - I know, I helped pick it up]."

"We had several broken fishing poles, broken chairs, and broken grills. Otherwise just bottles, cans, bait containers, etc." Just.

Not to be outdone, a consortium of sportsmen and riverkeepers participated in the second annual "Get the Lead Out" cleanup of the Maumee River on June 3 in the Maumee-Perrysburg rapids fishing mecca. They found much the same.

"We even had some people who were white-bass fishing who participated when they saw what we were doing," said Matt Horvat, event coordinator for the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. A tip of the hat for these ethical anglers - too many love to skim the cream of a fine fishery, then walk away when it comes time to give back.

"It went well, considering we had to reschedule," said Horvat. The event was intended initially for May 5 but the river then was rain-swollen and six feet too high.

Forty-nine helpers collected eight pounds of lead - walleye jigs, sinkers, and such, plus "bags and bags and bags of line." Equal amounts of line were just thrown on the banks by careless slobs, and some was lost via snags while fishing in the stream.

Horvat said that just 20 volunteers in the first event a year ago picked up 30 pounds of lead, but the prolonged period of heavy rain in May flushed out a lot of the litter load this year - much as it did on the Sandusky River. Wonder where it all went.

"When you are working with a natural system, it's just hard organizing a lot of people to do a cleanup," said Horvat. Maybe so. Organizers had hoped for 200 volunteers.

Thousands fished the runs. Forty-nine showed up. Do the math. Remember the math next year when organizers try again.

"Next year?"

"Definitely," asserted Horvat. "It's worthwhile."



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