McCoys Creek clean-up crew collects tons of trash

McCoys Creek  clean-up crew collects tons of trash

McCoy_01 copySarah Nan has spent countless hours helping to clean up Jacksonville’s polluted waterways, but even someone with her experience has a difficult time comprehending what people have done to McCoys Creek.

“People don’t understand how damaging trash can be to the ecosystem,” said Nan, a Riverside resident and member of the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Commission.
Nan is among 15 to 20 volunteers representing three organizations who gather monthly to clean up the 3.5-mile long creek that begins flowing in Murray Hill and meanders through a number of Riverside neighborhoods before emptying into the St. Johns River near Brooklyn.

Members of the St. Johns Riverkeeper’s Rising Tides subgroup, the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Commission and the Jacksonville Jaycees began clearing debris from McCoys Creek last winter near Interstate 10 at Cherokee Street and Edison Avenue. So far they have hauled an estimated 20 tons of trash from McCoys Creek and its banks.
That amount will be tripled by the time the project is completed later this year, according to Nan.

“We’ve pulled 400 tires from that creek,” she said. “We’ve seen garbage piled 4 feet high. Shopping carts are really common.”
“You can see the trail of trash after it rains,” Nan adds, pointing to a growing stack of plastic bags filled with objects dragged by hand from underneath the bridge at King Street and

McCoy Creek Boulevard. The debris includes Styrofoam cups, plastic bottles, a car bumper, a metal bandit sign, a 50-gallon trash can and an old TV set.
“We average two to three hours [per clean-up session], depending on how grossed out everyone gets,” Nan said.

Sarah and Daniel Solomons lug an ironic item up from the debris – a 50-gallon trash can – pulled from McCoys Creek

Sarah and Daniel Solomons lug an ironic item up from the debris – a 50-gallon trash can – pulled from McCoys Creek

Industrial pollution used to be McCoys Creek’s worst enemy, but the Clean Water Act of 1972 dramatically reduced the amount of chemicals and other waste that routinely had been dumped into the stream, according to Shannon Blankinship, outreach director for the St. Johns Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy organization.
Blankinship says the concern has long since shifted to people who need to be educated about the value and benefits of McCoys Creek.

“This creek is our backyard, and if we treat it like a ditch, it’s going to look like a ditch,” she said. “It’s going to take a mind shift to stop people from using the creek as a dump site. With a little community support, this could be an amazing
waterway.

Annie Chambers (left) and Alicia Smith donned waders before entering McCoys Creek during the clean-up

Annie Chambers (left) and Alicia Smith donned waders before entering McCoys Creek during the clean-up

“The more [volunteers] we have out there, the louder our voice is,” she said.
Maintaining a positive attitude hasn’t been easy, according to Jaycees member Daniel Solomons, who recalls playing in McCoys Creek near Post and Bay streets as a child.
“But I don’t remember any trash like this,” he said. “It’s annoying, but you can’t let it get to you.”

Avondale resident Dunncan Pullen said he knew it would be a mental and emotional challenge when he first volunteered for the McCoys Creek project.
“But it’s actually exciting when you start seeing results,” he said. “Especially when the river starts running quicker.”
Nan couldn’t agree more.

“It’s really a rewarding feeling when we finally see the creek flow again,” she said. “It’s a simple thing, but there’s life coming back to the creek. It’s an ‘ahh’ moment.”
The McCoys Creek group meets on the third Sunday of each month. A schedule of starting times and locations can be found on the Rising Tides link on the St. Johns Riverkeeper website’s “How You Can Help” page at www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org.

Information about Keep Jacksonville Beautiful is available on the city of Jacksonville’s website at www.coj.net.

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