Reeling in River-Side Dumping
In April, members of the Mt. Airy and Rockville Chapters (Maryland) partnered to conduct the first in a series of Monocacy River watershed cleanups.
Mt. Airy Chapter member James Becker is an avid angler who has spent decades fishing along the Monocacy River for catfish, bass, and sunfish. He shared that passion for fishing with both of his sons, who attended this year’s Earth Day celebration at the Izaak Walton League’s national headquarters with their dad to help with youth fishing activities.
While fishing the Monocacy River, Becker, who is also the Mt. Airy Chapter’s Save Our Streams chairman, noticed trash accumulating along the river banks. More than just visually unappealing, debris in the water can damage fish habitat and spawning grounds. This trash could also affect drinking water for residents of the city of Frederick, which draws 27 percent of its drinking water from the Monocacy River.
Becker started informally picking up trash while on fishing excursions and realized the need to tackle river cleanup in a systematic way. He conducted a series of surveys along the river in March to target areas for cleanup. Along the way, he found a dump site near a bridge that crosses the river.
Friend Mark Vollaro, a member of the Rockville Chapter and also an avid angler, volunteered to help Becker clean up the dump site. The two men filled six large garbage bags with trash. Local businesses and IWLA members supported the project financially and by donating supplies.
After the success of that first dump-site cleanup, Becker offered free cleanups to landowners along the Monocacy and its tributaries who find dump sites on their land. So far, the National Park Service has taken him up on the offer and allowed Becker to clean a half-mile stretch of the Monocacy River that flows through the middle of Monocacy National Battlefield (a Civil War historical site). Another land owner allowed Becker and his sons to haul 11 bags of trash and an automobile gasoline tank from a dump site found on private property along the Monocacy. In the meantime, Becker and Vollaro plan to tackle other sites on the river identified during Becker’s survey and sample water quality at tributaries along the river to pinpoint other sources of water quality problems.
Beyond improving the condition of the river, Becker and Vollaro say they hope to foster a productive relationship between those who use and enjoy the river and landowners with property close to the river. “I want to tell my fellow fishermen: Don’t foul up the place or they won’t want us back,” Becker says.
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