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Fountain Creek cleanup teaches students lessons about litter, life

       To support the first-time Fountain Creek Week Sept. 27-Oct. 5, citizens were encouraged to select segments of the creek for volunteer cleanup.
       Sue Spengler, founder/teacher of the Little School on Vermijo, decided it would be a good experience for her middle-school age students.
       So she contacted the organizing entity, the Fountain Creek Watershed District, and asked to take on a few hundred feet nearest to her school, which is behind Blunt Park, south of Vermijo Street off 23rd Street.
       After about three hours of tromping around the creek and up and down its vegetated slopes Oct. 1, Spengler and six students emerged with “five huge bags of stuff,” she reported.
Along with their five bags of trash, students from the Little School on Vermijo hold up some of their more interesting discoveries in cleaning up Fountain Creek behind Blunt Park Oct. 1. From left are Keegan (with hammer), Mia (in back, with a ball), Xavier (with a scuba mask), Julia (standing highest, displaying a high-heeled shoe), Adrian (kneeling in front) and Zoe.
Courtesy of Sue Spengler
       The creek didn't make things easy. “A lot of things were tangled in bushes,” she said. And with the creek well below Blunt Park, “Hauling those bags up the banks was crazy; we were exhausted.”
       But the effort did give the Little School group a new sense of ownership. Some thought is even being given to cleaning it on a regular basis. In any case, “we are going to start playing down there at the creek behind our park now, and claiming it as OUR place to hang out!” Spengler said.
       The kids made some interesting finds, including a hammer, a scuba mask, a golden slipper and a Pokemon Pokeball. Left behind, “in case someone wanted them,” were a stuffed teddy bear, a working lighter and a novel (“David Copperfield”), she said.
       Also discovered by the Little Schoolers in the creek area - and also left behind - were a few homeless camps. “We cleaned up around them,” Spengler summarized. Nobody was in in the camps; in cooperation with Creek Week, the Police Department's HOT team had made a sweep of such illegal sites the week before, according to Jeff Besse of City Engineering, who helped organize the cleanup effort.
       Still the camp discoveries left an impression on the students. “There's a fine line between having compassion for the homeless and recognizing that these are public spaces to be enjoyed by all,” Spengler said. “I feel like my kids got that. It was certainly interesting for them to come so close to seeing how some people try to live.”
       Overall, Besse said “almost 50 different groups” participated in the Creek Week cleanup effort.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 10/3/14; Outdoors: General)

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