Fritzi Olson: Community working to clean up Hogtown Creek


Published: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 1, 2013 at 2:17 p.m.

Water is big news in Florida these days. Nearly every day there are articles and editorials in regional newspapers decrying the state of our rivers, lakes, springs and watersheds.

Local residents have an opportunity to take positive action this spring by helping to clean up Gainesville's signature water body: Hogtown Creek.

Flowing from northeast to southwest over its 12.9 mile run through Gainesville, Hogtown Creek collects the inflow of many smaller streams that together drain much of the city.

Along with the water are all the pollutants, fertilizers, pesticides and trash that run off the land during rains. Ultimately it all pours into the ground at Haile Sink, just west of I-75, and mixes with our area's water supply.

Current Problems is a local non-profit organization of volunteers committed to the health of North Central Florida's waterways. We conduct cleanups, plant vegetation along shorelines, remove invasive exotic vegetation and plant public stormwater ponds with appropriate native plants. Our volunteers have cleaned up more than 330 tons of trash over the past 20 years.

For the past three years, Current Problems has undertaken the Great Suwannee River Cleanup from the Georgia line to the Gulf of Mexico, coordinating more than 1,400 volunteers who removed over 60,000 pounds of trash from one of the nation's most iconic rivers. It occurred to us that the same approach could address the needs of Gainesville's urban creeks.

In a public-private partnership with local agencies, Current Problems is organizing a top-to-bottom cleanup of Hogtown Creek this March and April. We have designated 11 sites along the creek that will be the focus of individual cleanups. We will coordinate volunteers, provide cleanup supplies (trash bags, buckets, grabbers) and arrange for disposal and recycling of the trash collected.

We could use your help. A map of Hogtown Creek, with public properties marked, is posted at currentproblems.org. Neighborhood associations, businesses, organizations or groups of individuals can register for sections of the creek. On the Suwannee River, these cleanups often became social events, with cookouts following the work.

You can do the same. If you'd like to take responsibility for your private portion of the creek as part of this effort, please let us know if we can be of assistance. Current Problems is also seeking sponsors to help out with the expenses of this project.

Our kick-off cleanup is scheduled today from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Hogtown Creek Headwaters Nature Park behind Home Depot on North Highway 441. A staff member from Gainesville's Nature Operations Department will provide an overview about the role Hogtown Creek plays in our local water ecology before volunteers begin work collecting trash and removing coral ardisia plants from the creek's headwaters area.

World renowned cave diver Jill Heinerth once wrote, "The future is revealed beneath our feet. All that we have wrought upon the land will be returned to us to drink."

The Hogtown Creek Cleanup gives us all an opportunity to take positive action within this cycle. Please contact us if you'd like to be a part of this effort to protect and enhance Gainesville's premier waterway. You can reach us at aar@currentproblems.org or 352-264-6827.

Fritzi Olson is the executive director of Current Problems, Inc.

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