- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 14, 2002

FAULKNER, Md. — The narrow gravel lane that leads to the popular Allens Fresh fishing access on the Wicomico River in Charles County looked more like a city dump than a place where folks can go to relax and enjoy spectacular scenery and wildlife. For some inexplicable reason, at the beginning of the path there were six cardboard wrappers that once held ready-to-bake biscuits. Next to them was an assortment of empty beer cans and half-pint bottles that days or weeks ago were filled with cheap whiskey, gin or vodka. The Pillsbury Doughboy would have cried instead of giggled.
As we walked along, quickly filling trash bags, there also were plenty of signs of sport fishermen's inhumanity to fellow anglers who would just as soon look at woods and waters the way God intended, not see them look like a street scene from a Third World ghetto. Piles of discarded monofilament line, empty bait cartons and crushed coffee cups lined the lane and adjacent trees or undergrowth.
Nonetheless, this was a day to be celebrated. The Allens Fresh site was just one of dozens in the Potomac River's watershed that saw men, women and children volunteer to set things right again even if it would last only a short time.
This was Potomac Watershed Cleanup Day all around the nation's river, and local bass clubs, Trout Unlimited chapters, Coastal Conservation Association chapters and people from all other walks of life joined hands to do what needed to be done. Even the Charles County Sheriff's Department was on hand with a company of youthful "volunteers" to clean adjacent road sides.
Pat Capps, a sport fisherman from Mechanicsville, Md., shook his head and said sadly, "Look at this. Can you believe human beings would do this to such a beautiful place?" With that Capps bent down and resumed pulling up thoughtlessly discarded junk and trash left by fishermen, partying teens and people too lazy to visit a county dump that would gladly accept their trash.
In one case, a volunteer who wanted to do his part to restore the "Fresh" that has delivered untold hours of fishing joy to generations of area anglers found remnants of old carpets, several small deer skeletons, even signs that lovers had visited not long ago.
Ed Meadows, a retired District policeman who now lives in Waldorf, Md., was barely visible as he literally crawled on all fours into tall stands of cattails and thorn-laden brambles to remove fishing line, cans, bottles and paper. "This is where I spend some of my fishing time," he said. "It looks so much better without all this junk strewn about."
Bob Rice and Tony Maddox, two regulars who, for more years than they care to recall, haven't missed the annual run of yellow perch during late February and early March days, now were on hand, trash bags at the ready. Said Rice, a member of the active Southern Maryland Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association: "This is great. Look how quickly this place was cleaned up."
Most of Rice's fellow CCA members, meanwhile, were halfway across the county, down by the Mattawoman Creek in Mason Springs, doing the same thing the fellows at the Fresh were doing. The Sheriff's Department and a friendly coordinator from the Department of Natural Resources soon left the Fresh to help out at Mason Springs, as well as the Chapel Point State Park, another place that just can't seem to get any respect from certain human pigs and we say this with apologies to the four-legged porcine family.
As I stood on that little woodland road by the Wicomico River, childhood memories welled up inside of me; of a hunting and fishing family: a father, grandfather and several uncles, all of whom quickly admonished anyone who, however unintentionally, dropped a piece of trash on the ground. For my ancestors the woodlands and waters were hallowed territory to be honored and lovingly taken care of by people who were privileged to be in such grand surroundings. To despoil it with trash was no less than a criminal act.
To this day, when I sit in the woods or on a shore, watching the clouds drift by in a soft breeze, I remember my Bavarian grandfather saying, "Listen. Can you hear it? The forests sing forever." It loses a little in the translation, but you get the idea. I couldn't begin to imagine hearing the treetops sing their timeless song while standing ankle-deep in garbage.
Our environment deserves better.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Frida, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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