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Creek clean up nets door, shopping cart

Health enhancement coordinator Cathi Austin, left, and business manager Cindie Olson try to remove a lawnchair from Faxon Creek during the Superior Douglas County Family YMCA’s coastal cleanup event Thursday. A number of the items they found, including a chunk of sports turf, a metal grate and the lawnchair, were too buried in mud to retrieve. Volunteers are needed for a Wisconsin Point cleanup event Saturday. Jed Carlson/

Neither mud nor brush nor blood-sucking mosquitoes kept the Superior Douglas County Family YMCA team from cleaning up a section of Faxon Creek on Thursday.

Their hour-long garbage detail started with the usual finds — a piece of paper, plastic food wrappers and pop bottles. But it soon reeled in the unexpected, from a door and submerged shopping cart to metal railings, a picnic table and four Spartan blue benches.

"We're getting our workout," said Cathi Austin, health enhancement coordinator.

The oddities kept coming. Cell phone? Check. Soggy blanket? Check. Rubber tire swing? Check. Golf club and lawn chair? Check.

The crew was left mulling how to pull some of the larger items from the creek bed up a hill and through woods back to the building.

At least one of the finds, an orange construction cone, will be reused by the YMCA, according to Jon Reimer, aquatic and youth sports director.

Last year, the group collected 75 pounds of garbage during their first Faxon Creek cleanup. The many large items found Thursday could push this year's total even higher.

Social responsibility is one of the YMCA's core missions, Reimer said. Caring for the environment through events like the cleanup ties into that.

"We're interested in preserving it and our precious water," said business manager Cindie Olson.

This is Coastal Clean Up week in Superior, and everyone is encouraged to lend a hand. Last September, 70 volunteers put in 120 hours of work to pull 1,055 pounds of garbage from local waterways, including a washing machine, couch and snowmobile windshield.

You can take part.

Volunteers are needed from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Wisconsin Point to clean up along the beach. A registration table will be set up in the first parking lot on the point for volunteer sign-in. Garbage bags, gloves and other cleanup materials will be provided.

Local businesses, schools and organizations can also organize their own cleanup efforts. In addition to the YMCA's Faxon Creek odyssey, National Bank of Commerce is working with St. Louis River Alliance to restore piping plover habitat along Wisconsin Point next week and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College will clean another stretch of Faxon Creek later this month.

"We are so pleased to partner with them for the cleanup effort," said Andrea Crouse, Superior water resources specialist.

Groups can contact Crouse at (715) 394-0391, ext. 1041, or to participate in cleanup efforts other than Saturday's beach sweep.

"We will have clean-up kits available throughout the month of September," Crouse said.

It can be an eye-opening process.

Olson said she was surprised by the amount of garbage the YMCA group picked up last year, about seven bags full in a two-block stretch of the creekbed; Aquatic Coordinator Jess Melander was surprised there wasn't more.

It can also introduce people to new spaces. Although Melander helped with last year's cleanup efforts, their Thursday work site was one she'd never seen.

"You think you know Superior and every now and then you discover something new," Melander said.

Faxon Creek notes

All three miles of Faxon Creek lie within Superior city limits. From its headwaters near the Superior Municipal Airport, the creek flows through three campuses, heavily developed residential areas and Central Park before feeding into Superior Bay near Barker's Island.

Although it flows through some of the city's most developed areas, the buffer zone of plants between the stream and upland areas has been almost completely removed. Its waters become murkier and more polluted the closer it gets to Lake Superior.

The creek is listed on the Wisconsin DNR's impaired waters list.