Residents can help keep rivers clean –Katherine Ball in Valdosta Daily Times 2022-04-15

Katherine Ball, Valdosta Daily Times, April 15, 2022, BALL: Residents can help keep rivers clean

I get excited, every year, as Earth Day approaches. Not only is it a great day to spend time preserving and enjoying our planet, it is also my birthday.

[Katherine Ball]
Katherine Ball

As I spend this Birth and Earth Day, in Valdosta, I am reminded of the many childhood memories I made playing in Three Mile Branch creek, off Country Club Road. Looking back, my experiences in those waters, directly shaped who I became as an adult and an artist.

Being the only girl in the Magnolia Plantation cul-de-sac, I often found myself, leading the neighborhood pack of boys on creek explorations and trek adventures through the woods. A huge culvert, similar to a skateboard half pipe, was our occasionally damp trail of destiny. This very influential concrete drainage ditch was at the end of our street, and led to a small creek connecting Worthington Woods, to our neighborhood.

This creek was everything to us. It was our life. An escape from the everyday pressures of being a kid. No parents, no teachers, just fun. Ironically, what we did not realize was how much we were learning about our homeland and ourselves, by playing there.

As a child, all four of my grandparents instilled an importance and love for the land in all of their grandchildren. It was not until I got older, that I really began to understand the significance of their words.

For close to 200 years, my families on the Suwannee River lived on and from the land they owned. Members respected and were solely reliant on the river to live, and years later the same truths still remain. Maybe that is why it seemed like part of my DNA “came alive,” when I spent time in the creek.

Today, the Suwannee River Conservancy now maintains close to 180 acres of our original 200-acre farm on the river, and as a result, the value of public land stewardship will continue to extend through many more generations. I still carry the love and lessons of the land we received, with me, and they continue to be the driving forces behind my conservation efforts, today.

The Suwannee River Basin lays claim to over 10,000 square miles, occupies more than 30 counties and stretches across two states. This area is actually larger than six U.S. states, but sadly only has less than one tenth of the population. Because of this, awareness and funding for these spaces are not well recognized or publicized and often go unnoticed.

Although these bodies of water are grand and vast, keeping them clean, starts at a local level. Clean, fresh water should be a top priority, not just for politicians and public officials, but for citizens as well. Everyone needs clean water, which is why stewardship of Earth and our waterways is everyone’s job. Without respect for nature, it will not provide for us.

In order to have fun in our local waters, they must first, be clean. Not just clear of chemicals, but clean of trash and debris, as well. Every level plays an integral part in the existence and systemic flow of our rivers and with that comes individual responsibilities for each of them.

It is never too early to begin teaching stewardship and implementing conservation efforts for future generations. Like the kids who came before me, the current youth of Valdosta and Lowndes County deserve enjoyable outdoor experiences on our waters, like I did, growing up within the city limits.

Valdosta has excellent ordinances pertaining to trash distribution and pick-up, so together, we can all work to maintain and enforce clean local parking lots, clean greenways, and as a result, cleaner waterways. Let’s continue to preserve our rivers and keep them clean, so Valdosta’s future generations will appreciate their memories of our beautiful town, the way I do.

Katherine Ball is a musician and WWALS member.

She also said at the WWALS Two Mile Branch Earth Day Rivers Alive Cleanup to which she invited us:

proactive and preventative

…with preventative measures, it’s proactive and preventative, to grab it here, before it even gets to the big swirls or the river. No, you can’t get it in the river. That’s why it’s our job to grab it now, and to grab it here, while we have access to it.

And it is the City of Valdosta’s job to educated the fast food outlets and parking lot owners to keep trash from escaping those lots, to put out and clean out the required trash cans, and to enforce the city ordinances if businesses don’t do those things voluntarily. It’s also the city’s job to put trash traps in the creeks to stop trash all the time from getting down into the river.

For more about the Valdosta trash situation, see:

You can help by reporting any trash or litter problem you see in Valdosta with Valdosta’s Click ‘n’ Fix smartphone app.

For trash or other problems elsewhere, here’s how to report:

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!