Jenny Dillon, an intern with the Licking County Soil and Water Conservation District, said she has wanted to become more involved with the annual river roundup event, in which volunteers spend a day removing debris from the Licking River and its tributaries.
This year, not only will her wish be granted, but she and Pataskala Rotary Club President Bart Weiler have worked to extend the event into western Licking County.
"We haven't had anything in the Pataskala area," Dillon said.
This will be the 20th year for the Licking County River Roundup, when it begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 6.
In years past, the roundup concentrated on areas of the Licking River close to the city of Newark.
But Denise Brooks, acting Licking County soil and water program administrator, said this year the roundup will be countywide, with Pataskala, Granville, Hebron, Union Township, Blackhand Gorge and St. Louisville also participating.
"The event keeps growing," Brooks said.
Weiler said it was important to the Pataskala Rotary Club to become involved with the river cleanup effort.
"We want to make sure it's a safe and healthy environment for children to play in," he said.
Weiler said it's not uncommon to see children playing in the river behind the Dairy Hut.
He said Licking County Soil and Water representatives have spoken regularly at Pataskala Rotary Club events. The Rotary Club has sponsored other environmental cleanup projects near Pataskala, but this is the first time the it has participated directly in the river roundup.
"The club is heading up the Pataskala part," Weiler said. "It's really nice to be part of this initiative."
He said Rotary Club members plan to participate every year, and they anticipate plenty of work.
"That stream's probably never been cleaned out," Weiler said.
Dillon said she lives near a Licking River tributary and there's plenty of trash to be removed.
Volunteers may register in advance at lickingswcd.com or walk in the morning or the event.
Brooks said volunteers may bring their own kayaks or canoes; a limited number of boats will be available at some of the cleanup locations.
Brooks said volunteers should wear "grubby" clothes and prepare to be wet and muddy. Gloves and trash bags will be provided.
The Pataskala registration and check-in will be from 8 to 9 a.m. at Municipal Park at the intersection of Mill Street, Township Road and Creek Road in Pataskala.
Volunteers will clean up the South Fork of the Licking River from the Dairy Hut to Municipal Park, with opportunities to continue further downstream and up Muddy Fork. All cleanup activities will be on foot.
For additional information, call Brooks at 740-670-5330 or send an email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brooks said volunteers have removed thousands of tires and everything from refrigerators to abandoned vehicles from the water.
"We've diverted a lot from the landfill," she said. "Seeing trash (in the river) is memorable, and it makes you want to fix it."