by Jacob Clore–
When it comes to keeping waterways clean, even the smallest creeks and streams need care and attention. Two Virginia Tech clubs go above and beyond to make sure that Blacksburg’s own Stroubles Creek stays clean and healthy.
The Virginia Tech chapter of the American Water Resources Association cleans Stroubles Creek at various times throughout the semester. According to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Stroubles Creek is an impaired waterway and watershed stakeholders must do their part to limit the amount of pollutants in the water. Club members and volunteers contribute by putting on protective gear and wading through the water to remove plastic bags, bottles, cans and other waste. The group has even found unusual items like a laptop and traffic cone in the creek. Club president Kylie Campbell works with the creek in order to maintain the natural beauty of the area.
“I really love coming out to these places and running and letting them be beautiful,” Campbell said. “We wanted to give back to the community and make the space even more beautiful.”
On a national scale, the American Water Resources Association works, “to advance multidisciplinary water resources education, management and research.” According to Campbell, the group attends water-related seminars and watches water-themed movies to educate members and attendees on water issues. The group also works with other waterways, like the New River, to serve the communities affected by the waterways.
‘We’re just trying to serve the community, serve the environment most importantly and it might be a little selfish, but serve ourselves because these are beautiful places we love and we want to keep them beautiful,” Campbell said.
Another Virginia Tech organization, the Stroubles Creek Restoration Initiative, also works to improve the water quality of Stroubles Creek. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality found that a lack of streamside vegetation contributed to the poor water quality, so the group plants trees alongside the banks of the creek. Tom Sexton, the head of the program, says they have planted 800 trees and hope to plant thousands more.
“There is unlimited opportunity for plantings,” Sexton said. “We hope to get a movement going that will continue for years to come to achieve this.”
According to Sexton, the initiative must check up on the trees regularly to ensure they are healthy. They also put white fences around the trees called tree guards to create a microclimate of ideal growing conditions for the trees. The fences also make sure that local wildlife, like deer and rabbits, do not disturb the trees. Sexton asserts that environmental projects, like the tree plantings and creek cleanings, are long-term commitments.
“Simply planting and walking away will not be enough,” Sexton said. “We take a cradle to grave approach with these trees and re-check them as often as possible.”