Phenomenal Effort Cleans Nature Park

“Phenomenal” Effort Cleans Nature Park
Journal Review
By Arnie Aurellano

A thick, gray blanket of fog hung low over the Sugar Creek Nature Park on Saturday morning, but that didn’t stop the Friends of Sugar Creek from doing a little tidying up.

“Yeah, (the fog) was something that we thought about at first,” said Troy Mitchell, a Crawfordsville city employee and member of the Sugar Creek Nature Park Committee. “But we’ve got so many people out here that I don’t think it mattered at all.”

Indeed, folks from all around came out in droves to help with the Sugar Creek cleanup. Parents brought their children, friends came in groups and students and teachers alike came sporting the colors of schools all around the county.

Even Crawfordsville Mayor Charlie Coons got in on the action, clad in a sweatshirt and an old baseball cap as he helped clear out some brush around the Elston Park softball diamonds.

“I think that the turnout today shows how much people here care about the natural resources that we have so close to the foot of downtown,” said Coons. “Just take a look around and you can see all the work that everyone is putting in, especially the kids.”

Young people comprised a large part of the group that came out to lend Sugar Creek a hand. Mitchell estimated that, of the approximately 80 people who showed up to assist in the project, over half were school-aged kids.

They certainly did their part, too. All around the park, kids were picking up trash and sorting through recyclables. Along the creek’s banks, they were digging out bits of glass and metal and unearthing old tires from the clay.

Many of the participating kids voiced the significance of helping in the Sugar Creek cleanup efforts.

“It’s important that we come out here and do this,” said 18-year-old Chelsey DeLarm, a senior at Crawfordsville High School who also participated in a cleanup project at the Amtrak station last May. “I think it’s important to take care of the Earth however we can. This is something we can do around here to help out.”

Anna Stanley, 13, said that it was important to take care of the area not just for our sake, but also for the many animals who call the creek home.

“We have to clean up our community,” she said, smiling. “If we don’t, the creek will get polluted and all the fish will die.”

Aside from the numbers boost to the cleanup crew, the kids’ turnout was also encouraging for project organizers because of the event’s concurrence with Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play. The widely-watched cable network turned off all programming for three hours on Saturday to encourage kids to get out and get active, and the Nature Park’s cleanup certainly fit the bill.

“We wanted to push the kids to get out and do something, and they’ve definitely come out,” said Mitchell. “’Put down your controllers and pick up a trash bag!’ That’s what our motto should be.”

Parks and Recreation Director Roger Neal said that he was impressed that the Montgomery County public was so supportive of the project.

“I think it’s phenomenal that we have this many people out here,” said Neal. “Usually, when things like this happen, you don’t get a lot of community involvement until the ribbon gets cut, so to speak.

Right from the beginning, though, we’ve had a lot of support from the people here.

“Admittedly, I’m surprised that the interest has been so big. That’s great. You can’t ask for more than that.”

Neal interpreted the high attendance as a harbinger of increasing awareness of the new Nature Park.

“The huge turnout is great, but I think what it’s showing us is that this is growing. From what I understand, more and more people are using the trails. More people are caring about having a nice park here so close to the city.”

“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but with so much support from people all around, I’m very encouraged,” said Neal. “I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s amazing to see.”