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Plastic bottles, cans could become off-limits on Spring Creek

Turner's landing is a popular launch point along Spring Creek in Jackson County.
Jackson County Board of County Commissioners
Turner's landing is a popular launch point along Spring Creek in Jackson County.

Floating down Spring Creek with a canned soda and a bag of chips could soon become off-limits as Jackson County commissioners move closer to banning disposable containers in and around the waterway.

“Unfortunately, some of that material isn’t making it out of the waterway,” said Public Works Director Rett Daniels. “If we could keep it from getting in the waterways in the first place, it would drastically reduce – it wouldn’t eliminate – but it would drastically reduce the amount of cleanup that’s needed.”

Spring Creek is among the rural county’s most popular tourist destinations, especially during the warm summer months when visitors from across the region travel there for inner tubing and kayaking. For years, county residents have complained about the amount of litter left behind.

The county has already banned Styrofoam and glass from the creek, and state and local litter laws are in place. Still, that’s not enough, Daniels explained.

“If an enforcement officer doesn’t physically witness or have video evidence of a person littering, there’s no enforcement avenue."

A proposed amendment to the county's ordinance on Spring Creek would require businesses that rent floatation devices to monitor what customers take with them into the creek. A business that fails to stop people from taking along disposable containers could be fined.

Individuals caught with disposable containers in and around the creek would also be fined.

People floating down the creek would still be allowed to take reusable bottles, cups and other containers with them. And disposable containers would remain allowed on motorized boats.

County commissioners discussed the proposal and listened to public comment at their regular meeting in June. They called a special meeting, which takes place on Tuesday, to gather more public input and discuss possible changes to the proposed ban. Commissioners aren't expected to vote on it at Tuesday's meeting. They're likely to take it up at a later meeting with another opportunity for public input.

The special meeting takes place on Tuesday at 10:15 a.m. central time at the board chambers across the street from the Jackson County Courthouse in downtown Marianna.

Residents say litter has long been a problem

At the first public hearing on the proposal, several residents expressed frustration about the amount of litter they’ve seen in the creek. They explained it’s not uncommon for them to leave the creek with trash bags filled with litter.

“We’re not going out there to enjoy ourselves anymore,” said Lance Burdeshaw. “We’re going out there to pick up trash, just to pick up trash. My kids can’t enjoy it because they’re picking up trash.”

Jordan Smith, 30, explained her father has advocated for the county to address the litter problem along the creek for years. “He’s been fighting for this my whole life.”

For the residents speaking at the meeting, cleaning up litter at the creek has become somewhat of a tradition during trips to the water. Ronda Meers explained her family has owned property on the river for 40-50 years. “Every time I’m here, we go pick up garbage,” she said. “It’s crazy.”

Meers, who lives in Marion County, told commissioners her local springs are better maintained. “We don’t have the garbage problem there.”

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.