French Creek Conservancy Clean-Up

Community gathers to green up Meadville area


Evelyn Zavala

Students walk along the Lew’s Land trail during the French Creek Cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 11. Another group worked on the Mill Run in Downtown Meadville.

Members of the greater Meadville community worked together last Saturday, Sept. 11, to restore shared ecological spaces. Allegheny College organizations and Meadville residents participated in the annual French Creek Conservancy clean-up.

Students for Environmental Action board member Ashlynn Peachey, ’23, spoke about the amount of preparation done in advance of the event.

“We started sending out sign-ups before school even started, and had sign-ups at the Involvement Fair,” Peachey said. “It’s been a lot of coordination with the French Creek Valley Conservancy to get Allegheny students in the creek today doing trail maintenance.”

External Activism Director for SEA Julia Sonen, ’24, explained in more detail the significance the event has on the community and why it is an annual tradition.

“This is a really great way for Allegheny students to get involved with the Meadville community and also clean up our watershed,” Sonen said. “I really hope we are going to make this trail a lot more accessible to members of the community, just so they can get out and enjoy the land better.”

The event was not able to happen last year because of the COVID-19 restrictions.

“We had to put (the clean-up) on pause and so this annual event is just something I had to bring back,” Sonen said.

Co-president of SEA Candace Burkhammer, ’22, remarked on how she hopes the clean-up will improve the relationship between the Meadville community and the college.

“The college is actually showing the community we care about them,” Burkhammer said. “I know sometimes it is probably hard for them to live in this kind of community with the college in it and being a college town.”

Current attitudes toward the college are something students are concerned about and want to work towards fixing.

“There are obvious differences between the community and Allegheny,” Sonen said. “We are the ‘college on the hill’ that sometimes is not as involved with the community as much as we should be. This is definitely an effort that really works towards making sure we are part of that community more.”

Emily Tekelenburg, ’24, elaborated on the benefits trail maintenance brings to the Meadville community.

“The goal is to get people to go outside more and also get a sense of mental health from the physical beauty they see along the trail or the waterways,” Tekelenburg said. “Hopefully they will want to preserve them as much as some of us on campus do.”

SEA and other participants separated into two groups during the clean-up. One group went to Lew’s Land — a 48-acre property by I-79 featuring a 1.5-mile hiking trail. This crew focused on making that trail more accessible to everyone by clearing the path of obstructions such as low-hanging branches that can get in the way of hikes. Another group went to the Mill Run creek to pick up trash.

“(Mill Run) …  goes through the center of Meadville and actually goes under the buildings through tunnels for a lot of it,” Sonen said. “They are going down that (creek) and picking up trash with head lamps on. I hope that that’s going to just help keep the general street cleaner which is important to (the environment).”

Katherine Esser, ’22, expressed her reasons for wanting to participate in the event and also the impact she is hoping to have on the community.

“I wanted to do this at least once and just have the experience and help out,” Esser said. “I am an (environmental science and sustainability) major so it is kind of a right of passage to participate in this. I just want to make this trail accessible, everyone should have a place where they can go and enjoy.”

Allegheny organizations including Alpha Phi Omega also participated in the clean-up. The service fraternity primarily focused on planting trees. Brother Marshall Ramos, ’24, shared his thoughts on the event.

“I think this is a great experience that really brings the Allegheny community together,” Ramos said. “Another reason we participated is for this to serve as a memorial for (Scott Wissinger), a biology and environmental science professor who passed away (in 2019).”

The main goal of the clean up was to improve the spaces for all Allegheny students and the residents of the Meadville community.

“Everyone deserves a place where there’s nature and it’s pretty,” Esser said.