Volunteers from a previous EarthShare NC litter patrol display their bounty.

As waterways go, Durham’s Goose Creek isn’t one you’d likely plan to spend a day paddling or fishing. In fact, it’s barely wide enough to accommodate a kayak, or deep enough to support much more than minnows.

Yet the creek plays a vital role in the health of water you may well play in. And drink.

Goose Creek’s headwaters are inauspiciously located in downtown Durham. The short-lived creek makes its way through residential east Durham before flowing into Ellerbe Creek near East Club Boulevard. Ellerbe Creek eventually feeds into Falls Lake, the water supply for much of the Triangle.

Years back, Goose Creek was altered to make a beeline through low-lying east Durham neighborhoods. Whenever there was a decent rain, litter in nearby neighborhoods was swept into Goose Creek, which carried it straight to Ellerbe Creek and eventually Falls Lake. In addition to being our water supply, it’s also a favorite recreational hot spot in the Triangle, for its fishing, its paddling, it’s hiking (a 60-mile run of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail hugs the lake’s south shore).

A City of Durham watershed improvement project sought to minimize Goose Creek’s pollutant contribution by altering the channel, making it more sinuous, inserting riffles, runs, pools and glides. Those new twists, turns and pauses allow water to seep back into the ground. They also serve to collect litter, keeping it from traveling downstream into Falls Lake. And that makes the litter easier to collect — provided there’s someone to collect it.

“We’re out there about once a month,” says Tania Dautlick, Executive Director of Keep Durham Beautiful, one of 600 local affiliates of Keep America Beautiful.

One of Dautlick’s many jobs as Keep Durham Beautiful’s lone full-time employee is to wrangle volunteers for such jobs as policing Goose Creek. On April 20, Dautlick will wrangle volunteers from Great Outdoor Provision Co., who will be participating in EarthShareNC’s second annual Earth Day Corporate Challenge.

“Efforts like our participation in the Corporate Challenge are just a drop in the bucket necessary to help preserve and protect natural places for the next generation to enjoy,” says Chuck Millsaps, Great Outdoor Provision’s Minister of Culture. “It’s our way of giving back.”

To those who might question the demand for conserving such places, he adds, “To understand the demand for open space for outdoor recreation here in the Triangle all one has to do is try to find a parking space on the weekend at any number of these beautiful areas.”

EarthShare NC launched its Earth Day Corporate Challenge last year, with 34 companies and more than 300 of their employees participating. So far this year, according to EarthShare NC Executive Director Heather Beard, 29 companies have signed up committing about 400 employees.

Participating companies are randomly paired with local nonprofits for a day of helping to clean the environment. Founded in 1991, EarthShare NC is a collective of nonprofits, the goal of which is to promote conservation “by partnering with employers to do workplace giving and employee engagement programs.”

EarthShare NC estimates that since its founding, thousands of corporate employees have volunteered their time, and more than $10 million has been directed through the Durham-based non-profit to environmental causes.

That corporate support is vital to EarthShare NC’s more than 70 members and other non-profits, such as Keep Durham Beautiful, to fulfill their missions.

In 2017, for instance, such support helped Keep Durham Beautiful:

  • Organize more than 4,000 volunteers to, amount other things:
  • Clean up 61,271 pounds of litter
  • Educate 1,157 youth through environmental stewardship programs and outreach
  • Divert 40,609 pounds of waste from the landfill
  • Established cafeteria recycling at 15 Durham Public schools
  • Give away 6,724 flowers and 220 trees (volunteers planted 634 trees on public property)
  • Install 18 new pollinator gardens

Despite Keep Durham Beautiful’s impressive achievements last year, there’s so much more to be done. For instance, Goose Creek, says Dautlick, is “one 20 to 30 pollution hotspots we routinely visit. Some are parks, some are creeks, some are illegal dump sites.” And that’s just to fulfill their role in litter collection and prevention: the 14-year-old non-profit is also tasked with promoting recycling and reducing waste, and planting trees and plants and otherwise helping to beautify Durham.

Dautlick is Keep Durham Beautiful’s lone employee. “I play the role of connector, matching the needs of the community with those people who can help meet those needs.” “Those people” being volunteers.

Volunteers who appreciate a clean community, a clean water supply, and scenic places to get out and explore.

Pitch in

  • To help Keep Durham Beautiful continue to beautify the Bull City, visit their website here to see how you can help.
  • If you’re with a corporation interested in getting involved with EarthShare NC and helping the state’s conservation non-profits fulfill their goals, visit their website, here.