We have three thousand miles of creeks in Mecklenburg County.
Mary Newsom has a creek that flows by her house that flows into a lot of other creeks and then goes into the Catawba River and then Atlantic Ocean. We have a piece of the Atlantic Ocean in Charlotte.
If anything happens to Mary’s creeks, she reports it. Whether it’s mud from a construction site or a funky smell.
Mary is a journalist and journalists love the underdog. The creeks are our underdogs.
We don’t have a large body of water that runs through our town, we don’t have a mountain. We have creeks. And nobody tells their friends to check out their towns creeks.
But Charlotte was shaped by those creeks. The creeks are part of our history because people settled near these small bodies of water. But Charlotte was also shaped by where the creeks were not. Our transportation system was built around the ridges. All the roads are on top of the hills because back in the day no one wanted to tread through the muddy clay.
Those creeks are our property and we have not taken good care of them. We’ve dumped all kinds of crap into our creeks. We’ve filled them, we’ve built over them, we’ve dredged them. We have abused our creeks.
All along kids have been playing in our creeks, no matter how polluted or dangerous people think they are.
Back in the day, the kids and the creeks managed to transcend the social and racial barriers. The boys would all strip off their clothes and go swimming in the creeks. As time went on, the creeks got polluted. And then the city tried to cover up the smell with orange perfume.
In 1969, Pat Stiff, an investigative reporter, discovered that there were dozens of pipes polluting Little Sugar Creek. He published the names of the companies who were polluting the creeks and for the first time the citizens realized that the creeks were worth protecting.
You no longer have to walk the creeks to find out who the biggest polluters are. All you have to do is look in the mirror. We’re the villains today. It’s the speed and the volume of our contribution to the the pollution of the creeks. We now use our creeks as a sewer. It should not be this way.
But it’s not all bad. If you do the Kids and Tad Pole Test: if the kids can wade in it and tad poles are alive, the creek is okay to play in.
Let’s do our part to make sure that there are more and more creeks in Charlotte that can pass the Kids and Tad Pole Test.
Blog post written by Kseniya Martin.