This isn’t your standard scavenger hunt. It is more or less a trash hunt, conducted under the format of a treasure hunt. The site is the Maumee River, and the target in this hunt comes in all shapes, sizes, and descriptions, with varying degrees of icky-ness.
Fishing line, lead jigs, old tarnished lures, discarded packaging, food wrappers, Styrofoam, and paper coffee cups, that 11th plague of Egypt and everywhere else —plastic bags, cigarette packs, disposable diapers, cans and bottles, scraps of lumber, old tires, and pieces of broken furniture.
Paul Fuzinski places a piece of metal in a garbage bag on the Maumee River at Side Cut Metropark in Maumee.
Anything and everything that doesn’t belong here, with much of it posing a threat to the health of the waterway and the fish and wildlife that depend on the river, is on the removal list. The Maumee, which drains the largest watershed in the Great Lakes Basin, is in the sights of Partners for Clean Streams.
“Our target is always the Maumee River, and we center the work around areas of high activity, such as Side Cut Metropark and Orleans Park,” said Hannah Smith, the communication and outreach specialist for the Perrysburg-based organization, a non-profit that supports local and regional water quality improvements in the metro-Toledo area.
The group puts out the call for volunteers and does a thorough sweep of the Maumee’s busiest corridor several times each year. Two river cleanups have taken place so far in 2018, and the next “Get the Lead Out” effort will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, starting from the Orleans Park boat launch area.
Partners for Clean Streams and its volunteers will gather at Side Cut on Aug. 8 to scour the Bluegrass Island and Side Cut Creek area as well as the Maumee River proper in that stretch of the waterway. That event runs from 6 to 8 p.m. after meeting in the Riverview parking area. An additional session will be later this year, with a date and site to be determined.
Smith said the initial goal was to remove as much of the lead lures, as well as the snagged, fouled, and discarded fishing line leftover from the intense angling pressure the river receives during the spring walleye and white bass runs. Fish, ducks, and other waterfowl can become entangled in the line and suffer injuries or death, while the lead presents a poisoning hazard.
“The program was designed to remove fishing-related contaminants from the waterway, but we pick up any trash we find,” Smith said.
In 2017, the group and its volunteers pulled 6.6 pounds of lead and fishing line from the river. So far this year, 7.7 pounds of lead, line, and lures has been removed from the Maumee, along with various other pieces of flotsam and jetsam, including a section of railroad track, a tire, and a piece of porch decking.
The salvaged fishing line is cleaned and sent to Berkley, an Iowa-based fishing line manufacturer, and the old line is melted down and used to make artificial spawning habitat to help future populations of fish. The lead the group removes from the Maumee River is used by a local artist to make jewelry.
Much of the plastic and other trash pulled out of the river or removed from its banks is too dirty to recycle, so it ends up in the landfill. Big items, such as tires and appliances, are recycled through local outlets.
“It’s a proud moment when we see what all we remove from the river,” Smith said.
She said the Toledo ZOOTeen volunteers usually help out, and the local Trout Unlimited group has volunteers working the cleanups, along with Metroparks Toledo volunteers.
“We are always are looking for more volunteers and trying to reach new people,” Smith said. “There is never too many. And the more, the better because part of our mission here is we want the people in the community to take ownership and be stakeholders in our waterways. We want them to care deeply about the health of our rivers, and this experience makes that connection.”
More information is available at PartnersforCleanStreams.org or by calling 419-874-0727.
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