The Daily Gamecock

Sustainable Carolina volunteers to clean up Rocky Branch Creek

Students collect trash near potential Walmart site

Students divided and conquered Sunday to clean up the Rocky Branch Creek, the waterway that snakes through the campus’s southern end that could be affected by a possible Walmart site for Sustainable Carolina’s Clean-Up Columbia 2011.

Taking part in Sustainable Carolina’s Clean-Up Columbia 2011, 53 students separated into four groups to collect the creek’s trash behind the Blatt Physical Education Center, at Maxcy Gregg Park, near the Olympia Mills neighborhood and near the Capital City Stadium on Assembly Street.

USC’s green organization teamed up with Keep the Midlands Beautiful and Gills Creek Watershed Association to pick up trash near the creek with the hopes of making a new watershed organization for the Rocky Branch.

“We’ve got Rocky Branch right in our backyard, so we’re going with an initiative that Sustainable Carolina’s been supporting on making a Rocky Branch Watershed Association,” said fourth-year biology student Sam Johnson, who works with Sustainable Carolina. “Since this is so close to campus, it’d be fantastic if we had dedicated and consistent student support for it.”

Gill Creek Watershed Association President Emily Jones spoke highly of the student turnout. Only 30 to 40 students were expected to come, but 53 got their hands dirty with trash instead.

“The energy that seems to be there between students and the larger community for restoring Rocky Branch is really impressive,” she said.

Justine Grilli, a first-year international business student, said her group spent an hour picking up broken glass near the creek behind the Blatt P.E. Center. “There’s a lot of broken up shards of glass and crushed beer cans too,” she said.

Students were finding a motley stash of tarnished items at the creek near the Capital City Stadium — the potential site for a downtown Walmart.

“It’s kind of gross,” said second-year marine science student Elise Kennedy, while students were finding old radios, thrown-out metals and an old toy. “It’s kind of disappointing, so I’m hoping that we can clean it up and just make this a nicer place in general.”

Second-year history student Tony Chiarello, who came out to clean for his philosophy class, said he doesn’t think a downtown Walmart is needed, especially if it negatively affects the environment.

“Is Walmart coming in going to hurt the ecosystem? If it’s going to, then I’m against them being there,” Chiarello said.

Johnson said he doesn’t oppose Walmart being near the Rocky Branch Creek, but possible flooding should not be ignored.

“There’s should be a careful approach taken with it,” Johnson said.

Columbia City Councilwoman Belinda Gergel said the city has undergone a process to revise the city’s storm water ordinances.

“I am anticipating that our new ordinances will address significant portions of the concerns,” she said.

The council will discuss these ordinances at City Hall Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.