Tuesday, February 20, 2018

25th Anniversary of Friends of Hurricane Creek Cleanup

This Friday, Feb, 23, 2018 will mark 25 years since the Strokers Paddle Club and Friends of Hurricane Creek had our first creek cleanup. We will celebrate this year on Sat. Feb. 24th at Watson's Bend
The first Hurricane Creek Cleanup
At the first cleanup we cooked hamburgers and chicken on a makeshift grill on the side of the road near the bridge.
We started with 16 members including our children. The next year we had 32 members and the 3rd year it was many more. All together at one time we hosted around 200 members and volunteers. 

FoHC has removed literally tons of trash and debris over the years including appliances, cars, household garbage, and thousands of tires over time. We took 232 tires from one location is a single day. The work has been long and tiring but well worth the effort.


Scenes like this have been transformed,


to scenes like this.

It has always puzzled me how some people think the outdoors is the best place to dispose of unwanted items and garbage but it happens every day. Without efforts like the FoHC Cleanup it would simply accumulate to a point of being not only unsightly but unhealthy and in some cases dangerous. Localized flooding during heavy rain events is mostly caused by stopped up drains.
Thanks to Rumsey for the can!
When this much litter builds up it has no choice but to run into our drinking water watersheds. Cities all over America are spending millions of tax payer funds removing the bulk of litter before it reaches the water processing facilities. Millions more are spent removing it from local street and road drains.

I'd like to think that over the years we have helped the community by removing tons of waste using local volunteers at a cost of "0" tax-payer dollars. Litter, after all was the catalyst for our group to begin 25 years ago. Unfortunately it is still a huge issue today.

There's nothing prettier than a clean creek
With that said, I'd like to invite the entire community to come out to Watson's Bend on Hurricane Creek and help us celebrate this monumental event. (see map below) This marks our 25th anniversary. We have the longest continuous running stream cleanup is Alabama History. Come share your Hurricane Creek stories with us. I'll be interviewing volunteers on camera for a video we are creating so come tell us what it is about the creek that makes it special for you.

This year we are going back to an old tradition of having a chili cook-off with all of the chili being used to feed volunteers. Bring your grandmothers best recipe or your own best effort. There will be a $50.00 cash prize for the winner and a great sense of community participation by all.
Bring your best recipe and an apatite! Meat, Veggie, Vegan all welcome
Here's a tentative schedule of the days events. If you can't make the entire day, at least come spend a little time with us and tell your story about the wonderful treasure we have here in our community, Hurricane Creek.
Clean-up, Chili Cook-off and Celebration: 
8:30 Registration opens
9 – 12:  Cleanup (roadside, creek and park) There will be a limited number of canoes available so come early to reserve one.
12 – 1:30 Chili cook-off and lunch
1:30 – 3:  Annual meeting (guest speakers, announcements, recognition's)
3 - ?:  Celebration and Friendly conversations around the fire.

HUGE Shout-out of Thanks

 Steven Rumsey started donating the use of these huge garbage cans some 15 years ago. Picking up the vast amount of litter would not be possible without someone to take it away. For that, I'd like to offer a personal as well as an organizational thank you to Steven Rumsey and the company he started, Rumsey Environmental Services.

In the event of a rain-out, we will try for the following week. We'll keep you posted.
We have only had 1 rain-out. Plenty of coffee and donuts that day


Watson's Bend on Holt Peterson Rd

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Creek Cleanup Sucess Story

The Hurricane Creek Cleanup 2017 came off without a hitch. The weather was perfect. It was a little chilly in the morning with a light frost on the trees and in the air.

That didn’t stop the Friends of Hurricane Creek from turning out in numbers to clean the area. I estimated about 50 to 60 people came out to help.

2006 Dump site where PARA Hurricane Creek Park sits now

It’s a shame that after 24 years we can still fill up a large dumpster with trash others have thoughtlessly thrown out of a car window or in some cases people have hunted obscure isolated roads to dump literally tons of household garbage. We have seen that decrease over the years but there’s still a few out there that need educated as to the real harm caused by litter. That’s how the Friends of Hurricane Creek came about.

Registration always is the most tense part of the cleanup for me. How many will show up? Will there be enough volunteers to get the job done? Have I forgotten anything, that sort of thing?

People began showing up early and many had driven a long way to get here. Some of the Camp McDowell staff came all the way from Nauvoo. Down in the campground folks were making preparations and eating a bite before beginning the work ahead. It was really shaping up to be a great day on the creek.
We set crews out along the road to get litter and trash out of the drain ditches. In big rain events it all gets washed into the creek.

All together there were 26 people in canoes and kayaks in the creek to remove any litter along the banks.

Our long standing friend Todd Hester from University of Alabama Museum of Natural History was there with a load of boats for the day. As usual he held a brief training and safety session before allowing anyone to get in the water.

 It was an absolutely beautiful day to be on the creek.

With all the recent high water I wasn’t expecting to see much in the creek but the boats came out at the lower end full.

When the boats return to the camp it’s a signal that it’s time to eat so after helping the boaters get their boats and trash out we had a prayer of thanks then proceeded to reduce the table full of food to nothing in just a few minutes.

There was fruit, beans, A killer beef stew, deviled eggs, smoked turkey, and of course Nancy Callahan’s famous banana pudding! Man if you walked away from this table hungry it was your own darned fault.

It’s amazing how quiet 60 people can be when good food hits their plates.

With the boats loaded safely back on trailers and car rooftops and all the food eaten it was time to call it a day and just relax with good friends and a picture perfect day. We sat for hours after lunch talking and sharing ideas for the future.

Two new members volunteered to sit on our Board of Directors to continue the guidance of the Friends of Hurricane Creek hopefully for many more cleanups!

A heart felt thanks to all who came out to volunteer and those behind the scenes who continuously Support us. I want to give out a special shout out to the Brooke Foundation for their trust and support of the Hurricane Creekkeeper program.

Another special shout out to Rumsey Environmental Services for the donation of the dumpster every year since about 15 years ago.

At the end of the day we filled a 60 Yard dumpster about ¾ full. and it was time for me to really relax for the evening. It was a picture perfect night to end a picture perfect day!

 Mitakuye Oyasin  (We are all related)

John L. Wathen,
Hurricane Creekkeeper
Friends of Hurricane Creek.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Work day 17 has begun

Dr. Doug Woodward was the first to show up with his very large mower. He is cutting the communal area of the campground. I'll run a weed eater around the small stuff when he is done.

It looks like this is going to be an exceptional cleanup on Apr. 08... Next weekend.
2016 cleanup

Wild Azaleas are in bloom up and down the creek so the paddle trip next week should be Absolutely Alabama Awesome!

We are still looking for people to bring food to the potluck. Believe me when it's all over you WILL be hungry.

The actual cleanup is set for next weekend, Apr 08, 2017
Y'all come see us ya heahr!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Groups seek better warnings in event of sewage spill

Groups seek better warnings in event of sewage spill

Tuscaloosa News file photo
Nine Alabama conservation advocacy groups have asked the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to require widespread public notification in the event of a sewage spill or overflow.
A joint petition from nonprofits including the Alabama Rivers Alliance, the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Friends of Hurricane Creek and more asks the seven-member Environmental Management Commission to amend the ADEM code and set clearer regulations about what public notice sewage treatment facilities must provide if they are responsible for a leak, spill or overflow that sends sewage into a public waterway.

"Permittees are failing to provide immediate, adequate or consistent notification to the public when they become aware of a notifiable sanitary sewer overflow," the petition reads. "An amendment is critical to ensure that the affected public obtains timely and sufficient information to protect themselves and their families from the adverse consequences of exposure to sanitary sewer overflows."

Creekkeeper John Wathen, who serves as an advocate primarily for the conservation of Hurricane Creek in Tuscaloosa, pointed to recurring problems at wastewater treatment plants in the county. Records obtained by The Tuscaloosa News from ADEM's public database show that Northport reported 20 sanitary sewer overflows last year. Tuscaloosa reported 50.

"Here in Tuscaloosa County we have seen more than our fair share of these overflows," Wathen said. "Sometimes there is notice and sometimes not. In most cases what notices that are posted are not adequate to protect human health in some cases."

Wathen cited a sewage spill in Northport last year that sent between 400,000 and 4 million gallons of sewage into three area creeks and the Black Warrior River on the weekend of Independence Day.
"Other than Northport's lightly followed Facebook page," Wathen said, "there was no public notification of the large scale spill into the river, nor was there anyone staffing the city's 24-hour emergency hotline who could tell the public about the spill or the consequences to public health."

Black Warrior Riverkkeeper Nelson Brooke echoed Wathen's concerns and said Alabama residents have a fundamental right to know if and when there is untreated sewage in their waterways.
"Operators of treatment plants in Alabama must do a better job of adequately notifying the public when sewage spills happen, especially so that folks who are swimming, fishing, and recreating downstream do not put their health at risk," Brooke said.

According to a news release from the petitioners, if the Environmental Management Commission grants their petition, ADEM will solicit public comment on their proposed rule and decide whether or not to adopt it.

A copy of their petition can be found at blackwarriorriver.org.