June 19, 2005

Beacon cleanup yields strange debris

Group tackles Fishkill Creek

By Kathianne Boniello
Poughkeepsie Journal

BEACON The thick grime and sludge covering the large object hanging from Tom Ninnie's backhoe made it hard to see what the object could be.

Not until the wooden frame nearly fell apart as it was laid onto the railroad tracks near Fishkill Creek could one see the couch that had been unloaded by someone just off of Beacon's Main Street.

"How could people dump like this on Main Street?" asked Ninnie, a lifelong Beacon resident and owner of Central Construction of Beacon.

Ninnie donated time and construction equipment to help the first organized cleanup of the Fishkill Creek in Beacon by the Fishkill Creek Watershed Committee.

More than a dozen people turned out Saturday morning to pull garbage from the shoreline near what property owner Ron Sauers calls "Beacon Falls," the area near the intersection of Main Street and Verplanck Avenue.

Owner had given up

Sauers, who called the Saturday cleanup "pretty fantastic," has owned one section of the shoreline property for six years and said he gave up trying to clear the garbage.

"It's a quick, easy dump for people," he said, watching volunteers dig plastic snack food bags and larger trash from the muck. "The last time I cleaned it, around four years ago, I found three couches, two mattresses, a chair, cushions and a TV."

Rick Oestrike, chairman of the watershed committee, braved the murky water that went above his knee to fill a large plastic bag with debris.

"Last year, we did a stream walk program, and walked 16 miles of the creek and we studied it," he said. "One of the things that struck us was all the trash."

Finding all the garbage along the creek shoreline inspired the cleanup, which was sponsored by Scenic Hudson. The City of Beacon donated a trash bin to haul trash away, Oestrike said.

Some of the trash collected by the volunteers in just an hour included: the couch, a broken television, a vacuum cleaner, clothing, broken glass and bottle caps, various potato-chip bags and drink cups, stacks of newspapers, scrap metal, plastic shovels and three metal shopping carts one of which volunteers said was covered by heavy rocks.

"It's a lot of stuff that's obviously been here a really long time," volunteer Todd Spire said as he went to throw debris into a large bin.

Besides cleaning up the creek, volunteers hoped those driving by would see the work and learn to stop treating the area as a dump.

"It's just a mindset that needs to change," said George Mansfield, a Beacon resident who helped organize volunteers. "The city has a dump for this stuff not the creek. It just raises awareness."

Just as they were shaking their heads in disgust at the large amount of garbage collected in such a short time, the volunteers saw what appeared to be a ray of hope.

Some cheered as they realized a large, fierce-looking black insect was sitting on the edge of a dump truck. They hailed it as a dobsonfly, an insect that lives near fast-moving streams.

"It's a great indicator of the quality and biodiversity of the creek," volunteer Lou Sebesta of Beacon said, as a crowd gathered around the bug. "This is a sign that this watershed is worth protecting."

Copyright 2005, Poughkeepsie Journal. Reprinted with Permission.
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