Saturday, 20 April 2013

Annual Ecorse Creek Cleanup marks 20 years with Dearborn Heights tomorrow

Annual Ecorse Creek Cleanup marks 20 years with Dearborn Heights tomorrow, The Ecorse Creek Clean-Up will be marking its 20th anniversary as Dearborn Heights' community turns out Saturday morning to improve the appearance and health of the watershed.

From 9 a.m.-noon tomorrow, this year's Ecorse Creek Clean-Up will be taking place in Swapka Park, near the Richard A. Young Center, 5400 McKinley. Several groups will be led out to where Dearborn Heights Watershed Stewards commissioners have been stationed, at sites where most debris has been located.

Over the 20 years the event has taken place, according to Dearborn Heights Watershed Stewards Commission Co-Chair Barbara Goryca, other cities such as Allen Park used to participate.

“A couple years ago, our commission tried to enlist neighboring cities and found their watershed groups had fallen by the wayside,” Goryca said. “So we're doing this year's clean-up on our own.”

Over those couple decades of clean-up efforts, Dearborn Heights had wrestled with issues such as getting the county to do more maintenance on Ecorse Creek, and pushing a plan for financing improvements of the creek with a bike path through a Edward Hines Drive-type floodplain park. The Army Corps of Engineers was supposed to address the latter flood-control issue, Goryca said, but with the seeming collapse of that plan, “nobody seems to be doing anything.

“Our commission can only do what we can to keep the creek's flow as free as we can, and as clean as we can,” Goryca said. “What we've noticed is high water will take the trees down into the creek, which makes cleaning it up a county matter.

“But with the financial constrictions the county has today—we watch that, but we're limited in what we can do,” she said.

The commission always gets help from the Crestwood High School Honor Society, Goryca added, as she expects 18 students to turn out for the April 20 event. Also, she said that commissioners notice that the neighborhood is providing more participation each year from people who live close to the creek, “they've been helpful in taking part.”

The commission had planned to provide waders for participants, but since Goryca observed the water is now almost 6 feet deep from the past week's heavy rains, “it's sad, but” the clean-up will have to be limited to working the shores and nearby sites. She said there are tires and large plastic items there requiring removal.

Participants are recommended to wear warm clothing and boots, work gloves, and hat. They are also asked to bring sun screen and bug spray, as well as a refillable water bottle. They can sign up for the event starting at 8:30 a.m., or pre-register at (313) 274-3144 or at

The event will conclude with a hot dog lunch at noon. After lunch, there will be a walk around the three city rain gardens at the Young Center, and the commissioners will be accepting volunteers to help maintain this rain gardens. The Dearborn Heights Watershed Stewards will also be selling 60-gallon rain barrels for $65 (the barrel ties into a downspout, and collects rainwater coming off the roof for reuse for watering plants and washing cars).

It came as a surprise to her and co-chair Steve Roberts, Goryca said, but even with last summer's dry summer, people seemed to know that rain would be coming someday, so the sales of the barrels did not slow last year (they can be purchased at City Hall, and the Young and Canfield Centers). She said they also did well in calling citizens to volunteer for the rain gardens.

As the gardens were not planted until June last year, there is not significant growth and the native plants are sparse after a dry summer.

“But it's coming,” Goryca said. “It takes a couple years, and there's huge plants at the University of Michigan-Dearborn rain gardens, they are so filled with growth.”

With the recent rain, she said it is now obvious that the parking lot's porous pavement and rain garden is doing its job in absorbing 95 percent of the rain coming off the Young Center roof, “which helps reduce flooding.”

The 20th year of cleaning up Ecorse Creek is being hosted by the Dearborn Heights Watershed Stewards Commission, which was formed to educate citizens on how individuals can affect waterways with their daily decisions.

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