Volunteers are being sought for this weekend’s groundbreaking cleanup of Carpenter Creek, which has been under siege from neglect for decades.
Talk to anyone involved with the project and they’ll tell you that cleaning up the creek is a major undertaking that’s way past overdue.
“We’ve been working on that for over a year now; every 5-6 weeks we’ve been out there, probably 40-50 of us, sometimes larger groups out there,” said Emerald Coastkeeper Laurie Murphy, a project organizer.
She says the debris goes well beyond cigarette butts, wrappers and bottles – totaling more than ten tons of illegally-dumped refuse as of their last cleanup.
“Over 44 shopping carts; hundreds of tires, sinks, toilets, refrigerators, furniture, desks, mattresses,” said Murphy. “You name it, we found it; even two basketball goals.”
Carpenter Creek is the main freshwater tributary of Bayou Texar with a ten and a half square mile watershed. It flows southeast from Olive Road to 12th avenue before entering the bayou.
“We’re teaming up with the Department of Natural Resources with Escambia County; they purchased the property, the headwaters of Carpenter Creek,” Murphy said. “It was real important that they did that, so we could maintain good environmental quality for the whole creek.”
The $8.5 million dollar cost of the project will be paid by money from the $70 million coming to Escambia County from the RESTORE Act settlement of the BP oil spill.
Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson – through whose District-4 most of Carpenter Creek flows – has said this is his number-one priority for RESTORE Act spending.
“We have a gem there, and we have some areas that are more in the commercial area, that really could afford a great walking amenity along the creek,” Robinson said. “While at the same time using some of that buffer area to significantly improve water quality. I think there are a number of things that can be done in that overall creek master plan.”
Robinson will be on hand for Saturday’s groundbreaking, along with Pensacola City Councilwoman Sherri Myers – who considers the creek an “impaired” body of water. She’s calling for development of a number of restoration strategies.
“We need to look at a conservation easement project,” Myers said. “The city does own land along the creek and that’s a good thing. We need to look at restoring the green spaces along Carpenter Creek, so that the public will have access.”
Carpenter Creek was part of the lifeblood of early Pensacola At one time, Coast Keeper Laurie Murphy says there was a British lumber mill operating on its banks.
“They used to cut down all the longleaf pines, the dominant species of trees in our area,” Murphy said. “I also heard through a rumor but not confirmed, that there was a Spanish mill not far from here as well. Cutting down those trees and logging them down the river, in the creek to the bayou was big business.”
The groundbreaking cleanup of Carpenter Creek will begin Saturday morning at 9:00 at project headquarters – 715 Olive Road in Pensacola.
“You need to dress warm, it’s going to be a little cold,” said Murphy. “Waterproof shoes, long pants, dress comfortable [sic]. Emerald Coastkeeper will be providing food and beverages, and we’ll have the gloves and the trash bags for the cleanup.”
Completion of the project is set for late February or early March. More information is available at the Emerald Coastkeeper Facebook page.