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Someone Cared

After all these years, the effort has worked.

The Miami Police Department got the call, and they turned on their lights and approached the tiny team who had been working to get a stagnant section of Tar Creek loosened up enough to begin to flow again.

Group cleaning along Tar Creek

We were not afraid as they came walking toward us. They came to protect us I am sure, to warn us not to play in the most polluted stream in the country. They came because they received a call. Because someone out there called the police and they responded to the clearly concerned citizen that someone could get hurt.

Lordy, lordy, it was surely one of the best moments in all these years of activism around the advocacy for Tar Creek. Just seeing the lights flashing! The City cares.

Hours after, actually the day after, I still couldn’t be prouder of the alert citizen’s action and then for the police response.

The first Earth Day was observed on April 22, 1970, with 20 million people across the country participating. It was before there was an Environmental Protection Agency and rivers were catching on fire. That actually helped light the fire of environmental activism both with the federal government and also in the hearts of many. For many of us the fire has not gone out. And it clearly cannot be tied to a single day. The fire has grown strong here in Ottawa County with each of the tribe’s environmental departments efforts and demonstrated on the truck route with random people dropping off recycling at the Modoc’s Red Cedar facility. A recent Cleanup in town turned out many people and picked up lots of the stuff we too quickly let fly out of the back of our pickup trucks.

It is hard to keep track of the many types of Earth Day events carried out in Miami, ranging from simple Cleanups to Bike Rides to the famous Fish Tournaments on Tar Creek (that weren’t held there, yet because the fish weren’t there and had they been, they would not have been used). Those led to Tar Creek Conferences, which will be held again in October for the 25th year. Earth Day was a catalyst then, a kick-off of sorts. And it is this year. After last week’s visit to Tar Creek by the EPA Region 6 administrator, Earthea Nance and team, LEAD was more committed than ever to act at every opportunity as advocates for our Tar Creek for those who can be harmed by her.

With Earth Day rapidly approaching, as the Tar Creekkeeper with LEAD, I organized our annual Tar Creek Cleanup along the banks just east of NEO College. We hadn’t done the outreach like last year’s when even the film crew from OSiYo brought their equipment and filmed the action while Deborah Berry set up her easel and painted the beauty of flowing waters.

Volunteers gather to clean up along Tar Creek

But there we were, Friday afternoon with our multi-colored fish hung and the orange water jug set out on the ROCK depicting this is the place, where the action begins. And it was after the hours of work in, for several of us and along for others, the trash bag full, the debris collected, the water poured out of the rubber boots, hands washed both with cold drinking water then with Clorox wipes and the participatory photo

taken, when the lights came on.

It had been only the day before I myself had called the non-emergency number for the City police department, to alert that LEAD had people knocking on doors in the 100 year floodplain throughout Miami conducting the Flood Survey. Just this week in America, people had been shot for driving into a driveway mistakenly and also for knocking on the wrong door. That stark reality makes canvassing even scarier than meeting up with the random aggressive dog without our bag of treats handy.

So, someone else had used that number and alerted the City that it looked like people were playing in Tar Creek and they listened, took it seriously and approached our crew. Then we messed up. We began to all talk at once. They didn’t get to do an obligatory spiel to tell us it was dangerous and why. I really

regret that. It could have been used sort of as a roleplay for the sets of children who will be diving in, trying their best to find a cool place to get wet this summer and will be exposed to the toxic elements both in the water and on every single inch of every rock and blade of grass growing along ‘side her.

As I began, I also end, someone cared and I love you for it.

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

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