Volunteers clean town’s waterways

Published 3:51 pm Wednesday, November 11, 2020

More than a dozen tires, a broken wheelbarrow, a helium tank and 33 bags of trash were pulled from Farmville waterways Saturday morning as part of the Friends of the Appomattox River Fall Waterways Cleanup.

The cleanup is designed to pull trash out of rivers and to prevent water pollution and maintain the streams as scenic parts of Farmville. Organizer Bobby Hurt said the group typically holds the cleanups in March and November. The spring cleanup was canceled due to the virus. Masks were added to the list of necessary equipment for Saturday’s event.

“We’ve been doing this over 20 years since 1998,” Friends of the Appomattox River member and cleanup volunteer Damien Fehrer said. “Initially when we started the project, we moved large volumes of trash and big items. Things like washing machines and refrigerators. But over the years, we’ve cleaned things up and I think our community has become better and is disposing less material in an irresponsible way.”

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At the end of the cleanup Saturday, the 17 volunteers who gathered that morning had collected more than 1,372 pounds of trash.

“Most of what we find today are the typical plastic bags, soda bottles, straws, cup lids, those kinds of things that can get out of somebody’s hands and blow away and end up in the grass and down in the creek,” Fehrer said. “Overall, I think people are doing a better job of being responsible citizens.”

The group spent three hours of a beautiful fall Saturday morning wading, boating and walking along the streams of Gross Creek, Buffalo Creek and Briery Lake. They met at the Wilck’s Lake boat landing where the volunteers picked up trash bags, gloves and grabber tools to help pick up the trash.

Lee Woodruff, who was helping organize the event, does not limit his involvement with the rivers to twice a year. He said he gets in the water almost daily to keep the blueway clear from fallen trees and branches that may impede canoeing and kayaking.

“I wait until the water goes down and put on my waders, take a chainsaw and cut it,” he said. “It gives me good exercise and to be in nature that I love so much.”

It is easy to see the Appomattox River is special to Woodruff. The retired biology professor at Richard Bland College said he has paddled the entire Appomattox River from Appomattox County to Hopewell in sections over a 40 year time period.

“I really like it, but I especially like it up here,” Woodruff said. “I love Farmville.”

Woodruff and Fehrer spent most of the morning ankle deep in the water of Gross Creek behind Dowdy Furniture and then on the other side of Third Street behind the DMV office. There were plenty of fast food cups, wayward bottles and beer cans to fill several garbage bags in just a couple hours.

Saturday’s  1,372 pounds of garbage  was a big haul for the group. Woodruff said before the cleanup, getting 700 to 800 pounds of garbage is typical for a cleanup.