The area of Rock Creek most affected is the length of the creek that is parallel to Sulphur school system property. The worst area in this length of creek is directly behind the football bleachers. It is a place that students gather mainly during football games and sometimes after school. It is here, and during those times, some of these kids decide to throw their trash into the creek.
School starts in mid-August and around the the first week of September when football season kicks off, I can expect to be greeted with piles of hand trash - plastics bottles, aluminum cans, Styrofoam cups, used papers plates, plastics cutlery, and things so disgusting I won't mention them.
Unfortunately, this trash that accumulates in this area is subject to ending up downstream within the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Normally during October we receive significant rain and this rain washes the trash downstream to the park. As all of us who live around here know, ten's of thousands of outdoor visitors come to our park each year and they shouldn't be subjected to a trashed out creek.
Below is a picture of some of the trash behind the football bleachers. Please note that I took this picture two weeks ago and I purposely left the garbage where it was to see how it would grow over the coming weeks. This past Saturday I went to collect the trash and found that it had grown three-fold.
This past Saturday there was some sort of sporting activity taking place at the football field. The bleachers were full and there were kids behind the bleachers behaving as kids. As I stood in the creek with a 80 gallon trash bag, bent over and picking up the litter, a couple of kids above me were throwing plastic drinking bottles into the creek.
Yes, of course I said something to them and with my gruff and graveled voice my words caught their ear right away and they skedaddled. Their quick departure is not what I wanted - I wanted to talk with them about their action.
It wasn't long until seven or eight other kids had gathered above me and one young man asked if I was fishing. I told him no, I was picking up trash. I thought this might be a good opportunity to explain the problem with littering. I asked him if he knew how this trash came to be in the creek. He replied, "I don't know." I then asked if he thought this was the place for trash and again he replied, "I don't know." At that point I knew I was wasting my time.
The bag filled up in less than ten minutes and was to the point it was too heavy to manage so I discarded the bag and returned home.
Back at my home I asked myself who should I be the most disappointed in - the school system, the students doing the trashing, the parents of the students doing the trashing, or... myself?
I think the ultimate responsibility lies with the school system. School officials could easily put the area behind the football bleaches and bank that runs along the football field off limits. Or, they could cordon of these areas. And, I want to point out there is even more reason to put the area behind the football bleachers and football field off limits. The bank of Rock Creek along this area has suffered from severe erosion over the years and is now nothing less than a sheer cliff. If a student or kid loses their footing and falls, there is going to be an injury - possibly a life changing injury. At the bottom of this cliff and on the sheer are large rocks that can cause injury. So, with this post being made pointing out the possibility of an accident, I hope to place notice that there is a safety issue involved.
Should I be the most disappointed in the students doing the trashing? I am disappointed. After all, they are the ones doing the actual trashing. However, I also realize that kids nine or ten, eleven and twelve years old have yet to reach the degree of maturity to have self-discipline. If one of their buddies throws trash in the creek, they will most likely follow suit.
Should I be the most disappointed in the parents of the students doing the trashing. I've always believed that we as parents are our children's true educators. It would be nice to think that parents today teach their children the importance of stewardship in our wild and wooded areas. I had my children in the wild early in their lives and tried to instill in them the importance of taking care of our environment. My children are well into life now, but if we were together somewhere and one of them trashed, I would forthright get their attention and there would no doubt as to why.
Should I be the most disappointed in myself. Yes. I have the ability to ask for an audience with students if the school system would allow. Admittedly, I am not all that comfortable in giving presentations, but have done a good number in my life. If the school system would allow such a meeting I know exactly what I would say to the students and it would go like this.
In a calm setting I would ask the students to imagine they are at home and it is time for dinner. They are sitting at the supper table with their family enjoying the evening meal. Suddenly the door opens and a stranger walks in carrying a large black plastic bag. The stranger walks up to the supper table and turns the bag upside down emptying plastic bottles, aluminum cans, discarded potato chip bags, syrupy Styrofoam cups, dirty socks, a mud laden back pack, and paper plates smeared with food residue.
Then, I would ask the students three questions. I would ask if this happened at their home would they (1) Feel disgusted? (2) Feel shocked? (3) Feel violated? Then I would ask how they think the fish and other life that live in the creek and along the banks feel when we trash their homes?
I hope this post will make it's way to someone who has influence with the school system and that person can grab an ear and have an audience, and therefore advocate action to solving the trashing of Rock Creek.