Chris Richardson, Park Hills
When did you first start organizing Sweep the Creeks in your community?
I have served as a Friends of Sligo Creek section leader for Sweep the Creek events since 2009.
What inspired you to start organizing Sweep the Creek dates?
Civic pride. It’s up to us to maintain our precious green spaces. If you want to see where Sligo Creek trash ends up, take a pontoon boat ride at high tide on the Anacostia River at Bladensburg Waterfront Park. In our section of Sligo Creek, I have personally seen egrets and great blue herons, as well as listserv photos of night herons, green herons, and wood ducks – one of the most impressive North American birds. Sligo Creek is well enjoyed by its residents for recreation and exercise; I see Councilmember Tom Hucker jogging there all the time.
How do you organize/ask guests to participate?
I announce each Sweep the Creek event on a handful of listservs that are local to the Wayne/Sligo corridor, plus the listservs where my children attend elementary and middle school. Friends of Sligo Creek and the Department of Parks also help to publicize each event, usually bringing in much-appreciated help from our local scouts!
How easy are they to set up? How often are they held?
Long-time Friends of Sligo Creek hero and coordinator, Patton Stephens, makes it very easy to get supplies for each of our twice-annual events in spring andfFall. I have attic space set aside for everything needed for creek clean-up events (jumbo trash bags, gloves in a range of sizes, water, FOSC banner, sanitizers, first aid kit, tables & chairs). FOSC works in concert with the county’s Department of Parks to remove trash along the Sligo Creek watershed—divided into 9 sections—in a systematic fashion. Our section (#4) runs between Wayne Avenue and Sligo Creek Parkway.
What is a typical Sweep the Creek day like?
My favorite creek sweeps are those in which one long-time volunteer participates in his wetsuit, allowing him to wade in the creek up to his chest (!) in order to remove creek trash that otherwise is beyond the reach of our volunteers. I can usually expect to see another local hero at creek sweep events, Linda Andrews, who last year introduced a special app—Litterati—that attaches GPS data to trash (which then gets uploaded and pooled) in order to help pinpoint pollution sources, as well as litter trends. No end, unfortunately, to the hundreds of cigarette butts I pick up at each event, both near the creek and along the stretch of Sligo Creek Parkway
“adopted” by the Park Hills Civic Association, where I serve as president.
What keeps you coming back?
For the last couple of years, I have organized an additional Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service clean-up event in January. We had over 100 volunteers turn out for our recent MLK Day of Service event, the highest number to date. With that kind of a turnout, “many hands make light work,” as the saying goes.
What do you think neighbors can do throughout the year to keep Sligo at its best?
Keeping trash from going in Sligo Creek is the best way to protect the amazing amount of bird and aquatic life here in Sligo Creek, as well as the Anacostia and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. I can’t imagine anyone reading this piece litters in the Sligo Creek watershed, so our collective challenge is to spread word among family and friends about the importance of discipline when it comes to trash habits.
Any other volunteering work that makes an impact here in Silver Spring?
For the past four years, I have chaired a PTA committee at Sligo Creek Elementary School that aims to improve the recess experience for all students. As a result of this work, the Recess Committee now manages a $1,500 PTA budget that provides a sufficient amount of play equipment (rubber kickballs, basketballs, soccer balls, jump ropes, playground chalk & hula hoops) over the course of the school year. Each school week, I restock the recess cart with fresh equipment, as needed—the attrition rate for playground equipment, given the intense daily use, is extraordinary. Last year the Recess Committee implemented pilot programs centered around soccer coaching for 3rd grade students (led by local hero, Coach Remi Parker) and tennis for 5th grade students (with PTA super-parent, Ronnie McGaskey).
Each week I also commit several hours to volunteering at A Wider Circle, where I help process various types of donated housewares for reuse by those in need. A Wider Circle is a really positive working environment that inspires empathy, as well as gratitude for all the simple gifts around us and an appreciation for the wealth of resources here in the metro area. It is very uplifting to see the extent to which A Wider Circle serves the greater community, not just Silver Spring, but also parts of the District and surrounding counties in Maryland.
But the most exciting development from last year, was being a participant in a phenomenal advocacy campaign organized by then Rolling Terrace Elementary PTA president, Lisa Seigel, on behalf of downcounty elementary schools that resulted in a supplemental appropriation (mid-budget cycle, mind you), thanks to Tom Hucker and our County Council, for an MCPS pilot project to repair the recess playfields of five elementary schools in the lower county area, including Sligo Creek and Rolling Terrace here in Silver Spring!
Do you know a Silver Spring Superhero? Let us know! Email [email protected] today!