Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Group wants to be careful clearing Hurricane Creek

Creekkeeper John Wathen, of the environmental organization Friends of Hurricane Creek, says he wants to clean up Hurricane Creek using “old school” techniques. The cleanup process using a natural method began Saturday and is expected to take at least a year.
Photo John L. Wathen
Published: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 13, 2011 at 11:25 p.m.
Hurricane Creek was a popular recreational area before the tornado. On April 27, it was the final resting place for three of the storm’s victims. Now it’s cluttered with a mangled mobile home, dead trees and piles of debris.
Although the storm swept over Hurricane Creek and stripped its ridges of anything green, new vegetation is growing.
“It’s bent but it’s not broken,” said Creekkeeper John Wathen, of the environmental organization Friends of Hurricane Creek.
He wants to assist the natural process of restoration, not replace it.
“We don’t want to clean it up fast,” Wathen said. “We don’t want the government and FEMA to get involved because if they do, they will bring in machines and destroy everything.”
Wathen plans to use what he calls “old school” techniques, which is why he brought in Russell Freeman, an arborist from Humboldt County, Calif.
Wathen and Freeman worked together on the cleanup of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Wathen said he knew Freeman was the man for the job because of his expertise in ropes and pulley systems.
“This whole area will look like a spider web,” Wathen said. “We plan to rig ropes in ways to lift the debris out and this way we do not have to use machines. It will be all natural.”
Wathen and Freeman agreed that the trees torn by 100 mph winds can be converted to mulch and lumber.
“Initially people just want to get the debris out, but if you take a step back and look, the trees can be used to restore the community,” Wathen said.
Wathen said 100 cubic yards of mulch purchased commercially typically runs about $1,800, so this process could save taxpayers a lot of money.
The process to clean up Hurricane Creek using a natural method is expected to take at least a year. The process began Saturday at 8 a.m. and will continue each weekend at the creek on Holt Peterson Road, Wathen said.
Volunteers are invited to participate in the clean-up effort. Those wanting to join in should wear closed-toed shoes that can get wet and bring long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Water and snacks will be provided.

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