Canal Winchester Urban Forester Dick Miller usually spends his time planting and caring for the city's trees.
Lately, though, he's turned his attention to water and has been leading an effort to give proper names to three local streams in order to protect their place in nature and mark local history.
A proposal to bestow the names Pickering Creek, Mingwe Run and Fox Run on the streams in the Canal Winchester and Pickerington area is pending before the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which is responsible for standardizing geographic names for federal use, including on maps.
Miller is working with Jonathan Ferbrache of the Fairfield Soil and Water Conservation District, who came up with the names.
The names are meant to connect to the area's history and its modern housing developments: Pickering, for Pickerington founder Abraham Pickering; Mingwe, for the Native American tribe that once lived in central Ohio (Mingwe is thought to be the more accurate spelling of how the tribe's name was pronounced, Miller said, although Mingo is more commonly used, as in the Mingo Estates subdivision in Pickerington); and Fox Run for the native foxes and another local subdivision.
The three streams are branches of George Creek, which itself is a tributary of Walnut Creek. The stream that would be named Pickering currently is unofficially known as the East Branch of George Creek, and the other two streams have no names.
Unnamed streams can create confusion, Miller said.
"Our issues of stormwater overflows and emergency spills and water quality necessitate clear and concise naming and mapping for tributaries of the region," he said.
Even officially named streams can lack conformity. George Creek is misrepresented as George's Creek on a sign on Bowen Road, where the stream to be named Pickering runs, Miller noted.
Having officially labeled streams also will promote the public's awareness of and appreciation for the waterways in their communities and how they feed into the Walnut Creek watershed, said Ferbrache, who said he looks forward to including the stream-naming process in the talks he gives at schools about local soil and water conservation. He also hopes signs can be added noting the new stream names.
"The message for clean water needs to span the whole watershed," Ferbrache said. "Where Fox Run starts, where Pickering Creek starts, has an influence all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico."
The three streams all start in Pickerington, including the proposed Mingwe in the Mingo Estates development and the proposed Fox Run in the Fox Run development.
There has been a growing push in central Ohio in the past decade to name streams. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Friends of the Lower Olentangy River Watershed, the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District and other conservation groups have helped lead the push. The groups say people value and protect streams more if they have names.
Within the last 10 years, the federal board has approved requests to name a number of unnamed local streams, according to Kristin Hilson of the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District.
The list includes: Running Bear Run, for a stream east of Lithopolis; Ackerman Run, for an Olentangy River tributary near Ackerman Road on the North Side; Walhalla Creek, on the North Side; Argyle-Woodland Run, near Ohio Dominican University; and Glen Echo Run, in a North Side ravine.
The current stream-naming effort has drawn support from Fairfield County commissioners and officials in Pickerington, Canal Winchester and Violet Township.
"We support doing whatever we can to give an identity to these streams," said Gary Bumpus, who serves on Canal Winchester's Street Tree Advisory Board. "It's real easy to look at a small stream and think it's a ditch.
"But it's part of the watershed and if we give it a name, I think people are more prone to recognize it as a critical part of the environment and be less prone to channelize it or dam it up or affect its natural flow."