Any thorough Lake Erie beach cleanup begins here, near Hartman Road, at the headwaters of Fourmile Creek. Drop a beer can here, or a candy wrapper, and it will, in time, wash into the lake.
“These tributaries get a lot of public use,” said Ann Quinn, lecturer in biology and coordinator of Saturday’s International Coastal Cleanup effort at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. “People hike here all the time. They put in fish ladders. It has an impact.”
More than 150 Penn State Behrend students, faculty and staff cleaned the creek bed Saturday, working from the headwaters through campus and on to Napier Park in Wesleyville. They pulled out more than 1,400 pounds of trash.
The campus effort was part of the 10th annual Pennsylvania-Lake Erie International Coastal Cleanup. Volunteers collected garbage from 16 sites, including Presque Isle State Park. They bagged cigarette butts, broken flip-flops and fast-food cups. They also hauled out tires, metal pipes and tangles of fishing line.
“You have to step back and realize that the watershed is not just water,” Quinn said. “It’s everything that leads into it. Everything we do here goes into Lake Erie.”
The Greener Behrend Task Force and the Janet Neff Sample Center for Manners and Civility sponsored the Fourmile Creek work. Students carried separate bags, sorting items that could be recycled. Coordinators kept a rough count of what came out. They finished with 63 bags of trash and 58 bags of recyclable materials.
“It’s wonderful that Penn State has taken this on and run with it,” said Don Benczkowski, head of the Coastal Zone Management Program at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. “It shows a commitment not only on the campus, but to the eastern part of the community as well.”