Taking care of the Olentangy River is a task that falls to the various municipalities throughout central Ohio which the winding watershed runs through, along with some area environmental groups.
This summer, the portion of the river that flows through the city of Delaware will get some extra attention through multiple cleanup days and activities that bring awareness to the importance of being environmentally friendly.
"Litter is not just an eyesore -- it is an environmental hazard," said city Watershed Coordinator Kristin Piper. "It can harm or even kill animals in and around the streams."
Piper pointed out, too, that the work isn't being done just for the benefit of the city's beautification efforts or animals. Keeping Delaware's portion of the Olentangy clean can have positive effects for neighborhoods downriver.
"We try to work north to south, so if we see a buildup of litter, after we pick that up, we'll go south of there and clean up, because it may be traveling downstream and making its way to other parts of the river," Piper said.
Of the Olentangy's 88.5 miles, 22 have been given State Scenic River status by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. As the river runs south through Delaware County, portions have been designated a warm-water habitat that hundreds of fish and insects call home.
Delaware's claim to the river falls within the upper section of the route that begins with headwaters in Crawford and Richland counties and comes to a confluence at the Scioto River in downtown Columbus.
The city acts as a steward for the river's section that begins just south of the Delaware Dam and runs to roughly Case Road before flowing into another municipality.
Piper said the most-used and -seen piece of the river in Delaware is the section that runs through Mingo Park, which is why it will be the first to receive some extra TLC during a cleanup day scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon July 20.
"Mingo Park is a very high traffic area, just because the park is so close to the river, so we chose to clean up that area first because there are so many people coming in contact with it on a daily basis for recreational use," she said.
Volunteers who sign up for the cleanup will be given gloves, trash bags and tools that can be used to pull trash from the river and its banks. They also will receive a T-shirt and lunch.
Registration is requested at least a week prior to each volunteer shift and can be completed by calling 740-203-1905 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Piper said because she announced the cleanup earlier this year, she hopes to double the number of residents who volunteered in the past, which topped out at about 10.
This is Piper's first summer as the watershed coordinator.
She said to take advantage of the warm weather, she decided to add a second cleanup day to the city's schedule. It will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 17 on East William Street. August's volunteers will start at the Fraternal Order of Eagles lodge and move north to the wastewater treatment plant.
"In the summer, the water levels are a little bit lower and the water is definitely warmer, so we can get down in the water more comfortably," said Piper, who noted that volunteers in the past have pulled from the water shopping carts, tires and glass in addition to the more-common plastic bags and food wrappers.
To try keeping the river clean once summer has passed, Piper will host for the first time a children's coloring contest this month. Children can fill in one of four picture pages that highlight ways to prevent water pollution.
The coloring-pages' messages include lessons about picking up after pets, washing the car in the yard instead of the driveway, and keeping yard fertilizer off the sidewalk. All of those practices will reduce pollutants that are carried through storm drains into the river.
The coloring pages can be printed on the watershed coordinator page of the city's website, delawareohio.net. They can be turned in to City Hall or the Delaware County District Lib-rary's main branch by July 31.
"It is important to boost awareness of environmental practices through children," Piper said, "because oftentimes that is when habits and values are formed."