French Creek Watershed cleanup celebrates 25 years

The French Creek Valley Conservancy will host the 25th annual French Creek Watershed Cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 9.

The cleanup involves individuals and teams cleaning in and around French Creek Saturday morning and a picnic featuring a trash weigh-in, prizes, food, a bronze hellbender trophy and the musical enchantments of Salmon Frank.

Submitted by Matthew Venesky
Members of TriBeta Honor Society clean Cemetery Run in Greendale Cemetery for the 2015 French Creek Cleanup on September 12, 2015.

The picnic begins at noon at Sprague Farm and Brew Works in Venango. To be considered for prizes, participants must have their trash weighed-in by 4 p.m., said Wendy Kedzierski, French Creek Valley Conservancy board member and Allegheny Creek Connections project director.      

Kedzierski said the prize system has been reorganized this year so the prizes can be distributed to more people. Participants will receive a ticket for every 50 pounds of trash they bring in and eight $50 prizes will be drawn from these tickets, Kedzierski said.

“We used to have a $1,000 prize for the school with the most participants and now we’ve broken it up into $250 prizes for different categories: elementary school, middle school, high school and college, and that’s for participants not for weight,” she said.

The community group with the most participants will also win $250, but corporate groups vie for a bronze hellbender trophy. The corporate group with the most trash will get to keep the trophy inscribed with the business name and year until next year’s cleanup, according to Kedzierski.

Groups can also enter a  “most unusual item” contest by submitting a found piece of trash.

“It’s always crazy what people pull out,” Kedzierski said. “There’s been riding lawn mowers, there’s been a motorcycle and most of the body of an old car. Those kinds of things don’t surprise us any more.”

Matthew Venesky, assistant professor of biology and faculty adviser for the Allegheny chapter of Beta Beta Beta, the Biological Honor Society, recalled finding a shopping cart one year with his TriBeta team.

“There are always fun treasures that we find,” Venesky said.

Venesky said TriBeta tries to work on a different site each year and has cleaned several locations for the cleanup in the past, including Cemetery Run, Stainbrook Park and Bossard Run.

“This year we have our largest turnout for the creek cleanup,” Venesky said. “We have 34 people that are registered, and 32 of them are students, so we’re really excited about that.”

Venesky said the 34-member TriBeta team will split into two smaller groups this year to clean two small streams near campus: Dick Run near the Wise Center and Robertson Run near the Robertson Athletic Complex.

“My goal as adviser of TriBeta is to try to recommend things that the club can do to promote biological research and to promote involvement in activities that are all things biology, and this is a great opportunity to get students and faculty directly involved in one of the prized treasures of this area, French Creek,” Venesky said. “Each year you would think that we would run out of trash to pick up from the creek, but we don’t, sadly.”

TriBeta, as well as the Allegheny Outing Club, will represent the college with teams on Saturday. Allegheny Creek Connections will also be present to help with the picnic and weigh-in.

“It’s a shame that you have to have events like these to keep the creek clean,” said Creek Connections Project Assistant Mimi Zipparo, ’20. “It’s not necessarily fun to pick up garbage, but it’s nice that everyone wants to keep it at such a high standard.”

The cleanup involves more than trash and more than French Creek, according to Kedzierski. Teams can clean French Creek as well as smaller streams, parks and schoolyards within the French Creek Watershed, Kedzierski said.

“It’s not just for the cleanup — I think it’s a celebration of the creek,” Kedzierski said. “It brings awareness and reminds people that it’s there, and that we do consider it a community treasure.”

Last minute participants cannot be guaranteed a T-shirt but can still register, Kedzierski said. A registration page can be found at Kedzierski recommended that anyone still interested in registering contact Allegheny College Outing Club, TriBeta or other registered groups.