Creek Week starts with cleanup efforts at High Rock Lake

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, September 20, 2022

They could not have asked for a better day to kick off the Creek Week with the Yadkin River Cleanup efforts Saturday, with bright sunshine, a light breeze and water that was smooth and easy.

Participants brought motor boats, kayaks and canoes or arrived on foot and went out on pontoon boats to help clear trash along the river, on both the Rowan and Davidson county sides.

There were two locations in Rowan where participants could pick up supplies like garbage bags, grippers and gloves, and then drop off trash that had been collected. Shane Graham and Barry Childers, two men who grew up on High Rock Lake, wanted to revive the clean sweep community effort at clearing out debris that floats along the shoreline and ends up either in remote coves affecting wildlife or in someone’s front lawn. So they established the High Rock Lake Clean Sweep, and on Saturday, each of them took charge of a location, with Graham at Eagle Point Nature Preserve, and Childers stationed at the NC Wildlife Ramp at 2nd Dutchman’s Creek access area off of Bringle Ferry Road.

Barry Childers, one of two men who established High Rock Lake Clean Sweep, uses a reciprocating saw to cut a floating retention device into smaller pieces before disposal. Elisabeth Strillacci / Salisbury Post

About a dozen Catawba College students devoted well over an hour to the cleanup efforts, and when they returned, Childers asked how they felt about it.

“How’s it feel to do something so good?” he asked. He got a resoundingly positive response. “This is the kind of participation I like to see!” he said.

Josh Cool, preserve keeper at Catawba College, brought his son, Dean, 3, to the event, to begin to teach him about caring for nature.

“This was his first time in a boat,” said Cool of his son, who had his own child-sized grabber to help reach debris. “He had a great time helping.” Cool and other volunteers had taken a pontoon boat out to collect trash and returned with a boatload, including what Childers identified as a sort of retention float.

“It’s the kind of thing Duke energy would use in the water to keep things out” around equipment, he said. It included a large, black sheet of rubber and flotation segments spaced along the length, which would keep the rim above water and allow the rubber portion to drop down into the water to keep debris away. It appeared to have come loose from whatever it was attached to and was floating in the river. In order to break it down for disposal, Childers had to grab a reciprocating saw and cut it up.

Meanwhile, asked if Dean Cool had found anything he wanted to keep, his mother, Jenna Wilson, laughed.

“Fortunately, no, but he did have a good time and he did try to help,” she said. “And it’s important for him to learn about caring for the earth.

Graham and Childers lead the HRLCleansweep Committee, which also includes Jeff Swing, AnnMarie Clark, Karen Baldwin, Edgar Miller and Joyce Caron-Mercier.

Merceir was also at 2nd Dutchman Saturday, and was happily filling out certificates for community service hours for participants.

“That’s a great way to get it,’ she said. “And these Catawba students were a huge help.”

“As a Rowan County business owner that makes his living from the lake, the end result is the same — a clean and safe recreational body of water that is an inviting place for fishermen who want to spend their day and money here, regardless of the side of the lake,” Childers said in advance of the event.

A group of students from Catawba College spent about an hour and a half of their Saturday morning contributing to the Yadkin River clean up project. Elisabeth Strillacci / Salisbury Post

Saturday’s clean up is just the beginning of Creek Week, which runs until Sept. 24.

“There have been several events that make me proud to be involved with Rowan Creek Week, but the clean-up events are close to the top,” said Kelli Isenhour, Rowan County soil and water educator and Rowan Creek Week steering committee chair. “It is wonderful to see families and neighbors come together to do something positive for the community by cleaning up our waterways. Having clean, accessible water benefits everyone, and helping others is good for the soul.”

There are more than 20 events scheduled throughout the week including preschool story time today (Tuesday) at 11 a.m. at East Branch (Rockwell) and Headquarters library; story time again on Wednesday at City Park that includes free fishing for kids, crafts and hands-on activities; touring New Sarum brewery Thursday at 7 p.m. followed by water-themed trivia; a tour of the water treatment plant Friday at 1 p.m. and a drip-irrigation workshop from 9-3; and the finale on Saturday with the Pedal Factory ride to Spencer, a 5K from Spencer to the Wil-Cox Bridge, a last clean-up at Yadkin River Park and a sunset paddle at 7 p.m.

For more information, or for a complete list of events, visit Rowan Creek Week online at