By LAINE GRIFFIN
Daily News-Record 4/15/19
HARRISONBURG — More people joined together for the 22nd Blacks Run Clean Up Day than Rebecca Stimson ever remembers in her three years working as the city’s public works stormwater compliance specialist.
More than 700 people showed up Saturday morning to pick up trash on the city streets and at Blacks Run.
“Usually we pick up around 3-4 tons of trash, but we are hoping for less because that could mean there is less trash being improperly disposed of,” Stimson said.
She said with the amount of rain the Shenandoah Valley has had recently, a lot of trash has washed into Blacks Run.
“Trash is something we all contribute to — whether in a good or bad way — and we need to make sure we are responsible with the way we dispose of it because it can cause a lot of water pollution that ends up in the Chesapeake Bay.” The annual clean up days are part of an effort to reduce the amount of pollution in the creek, whose waters eventually travel to the Chesapeake Bay. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has declared the Bay, along with many of the waterways in the Shenandoah River Watershed, to be impaired because of the presence of E. coli and fecal matter.
Blacks Run, which is almost nine miles long, starts in Harrisonburg and runs south, where it flows into Cooks Creek.
Last April, about 600 volunteers picked up more than 4 tons of refuse during the event, according to a city press release.
In the last four years, more than 2,000 people have volunteered and picked up almost 14 tons of refuse, according to city statistics.
Teresa Blankenship and her daughter, Jerica Blankenship, 15, joined the event for the first year and were glad they did.
“It’s amazing how much trash you find. It really does bring a new perspective on how polluted our world is becoming and that really makes you worry about pollution,” Teresa Blankenship said. “I would have never known just how bad it is if I hadn’t participated in the event today.”
She said the Blacks Run Clean Up is a good event to not only bring the community together to clean up their home, but also to help her daughter to understand the importance of a clean environment.
“This is teaching Jerica that it’s not OK to throw things on the ground and to take care of the environment,” she said.
Troy Burkhalter and his wife, Trinda Burkhalter, also participated in the clean up for the first time.
Trinda Burkhalter was part of nearly 15 people from LD& B participating and said she was surprised at howmuch trash there was to collect.
“We have always had a good group of people at LD& B that likes to do things together outside of work and so we figured we might as well do something for a good cause,” she said.
Her son, Braden, 11, said he was also surprised at how much trash was left around Harrisonburg.
Although Braden said he has always picked up after himself, it was clear others didn’t.
“There was a lot of trash in the creeks and so many cigarette butts,” he said. “I wanted to come and help clean up to make sure this place can be clean and healthy.
Troy Burkhalter said he wants his kids to see the importance of being responsible and picking up after themselves.
“So many people don’t care about the long-term effects – others just don’t realize,” he said.
Lena Fulton-Wright, 13, and her dad, Shaun Wright, walked around with a wagon full of trash, debris from old plants downtown and cigarette butts. It wasn’t Lena’s first time, so she showed her dad how the cleanup worked.
“This is my second year doing this clean up and it’s crazy every time to see how much trash there is, especially in a small area,” she said. “I didn’t think there would be this many cigarette butts, but there is so much.”
She said it makes her upset because people don’t realize how this affects others and the area.
“This makes me want to keep making changes in my life to help the environment,” she said. “Now I know to make sure I don’t let any trash fall to the ground because I know where it will go.”