Yesterday morning I volunteered with the Creek Rats during their annual creek cleanup (the 20th anniversary!) and had a fantastic time!
I’ve mentioned before that as much as I love an iconic remote Adirondack lake, I also love finding opportunities to paddle close to home and in unexpected places. And the Creek Rats have been working for years to make Onondaga Creek a welcoming place to paddle and enjoy a waterway in the city of Syracuse.
Onondaga Creek begins down in the Tully area and winds up through the city of Syracuse to empty into Onondaga Lake. The Creek Rats were formed in 2001 with a goal to revitalize this urban natural space and do so through a number of efforts, including cleanups, the Creek Float Art Parade, and advocacy for using the Creek as a kayak/canoe route. I’ve attended a number of the Creek Floats over the years and have helped make a number of floats for it, so it was rewarding to be a “float” on the creek myself today.
Myself and a few other volunteers, along with a group of SUNY-ESF students, met this morning in the Trolley Lot near Armory Square. We then took most of the canoes over to the bridge at Tallman Street to put in and focus on this roughly half-mile area for the cleanup, with some of us in the water and others focusing on the shoreline. My main goal for the day was to not cause havoc with their plans or make a fool of myself (or need to be rescued). The amount of rain we’ve had lately meant the water was a little high and the current was pretty steady. Luckily, I think I succeeded.
My ultralight canoe was different from the other larger canoes being used, which are important for lugging large objects out of the water, but I found that I could be helpful in scooting around more nimbly to pull trash out of low-hanging branches and along the sides of the creek. I did, however, manage to pull a traffic cone out of the water, so that was my exciting catch of the day. Some of the veteran Creek Rats shared that they’ve really been able to make a lot of progress in getting most of the really large trash out of the Creek at this point, but the other canoes still found things like traffic signs, lawn chairs, boards, tires, and more today. And regular old litter is everywhere, so the group was able to fill up many trash bags. The work will continue, but it was also a really fun place to paddle, even on the short segment we were working on.
I’m looking forward to getting back on the Creek again and in the meantime, I’ll proudly sport the swag (hat, t-shirt, car sticker) I came away with from today! The view you get of the city is so unique and it’s the work of folks like the Creek Rats that is helping to make it more accessible to all. If you’re interested in just exploring the creek for fun with them, they have a Just-For-Fun Float scheduled for September 18th. You can learn more about the Creek Rats at creekrats.org.