Brush Creek— The Friends of Scioto Brush Creek (FoSCBC) is a local non-profit that has proven itself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of eco-tourism, conservation, wildlife education, and more. They host a plethora of educational opportunities, creek sweeps, land preservation programming, holiday events, and more each year. They’ve served the area of Brush Creek as one of the limited non-profits making big accomplishments and have earned the respect of many.
They’ll be celebrating their 2023 growth a little differently at their 2024 Annual Meeting, which will look much closer at the potential future of the organization. According to their President, Jody Newton-McAllister, the group is setting its sights on the potential of a prestigious designation but needs community support to make it happen.
To understand their dream, you must jump in the time machine and look back at the year 1969.
“On June 22, 1969, something seemingly impossible happened: the Cuyahoga River at Cleveland caught fire,” Newton-McAllister recalled. “The surface of the river caught on fire and had to be extinguished by firefighters. This wasn’t the first time it had happened but this time it was different. People were fed up with pollution degrading American rivers. Republicans and Democrats in Congress worked together to enact legislation that would put more emphasis on clean water – the very thing that all life on Earth needs to survive.”
According to the conservationist, President Nixon would move to sign the Clean Water Act in 1972, which passed Congress unanimously.
“The Ohio Legislature acted also, creating the Ohio Scenic River Program in 1969 to recognize outstanding rivers in Ohio and the good work that local communities were doing to keep their waterways clean,” Newton-McAllister added.
Since then, Ohio has recognized and designated 830 miles of river in 15 different river systems as either “wild,” “scenic,” or “recreational.”
“Having a river with one or more of these designations has become a point of pride for cities and communities across Ohio,” Newton-McAllister said. “Mostly considered a ‘badge of honor,’ Scenic River status does come with one aspect of government oversite.”
The FoSCBC president explained that, once a designation is determined, there is slight government oversight that is enacted. This oversight does not impact private property owners, however. The restrictions are limited to publicly funded projects, such as bridges, sewer lines, etc. within 1,000 feet of the designated portion of river. This is done to guarantee public projects don’t impact the body of water.
“Interestingly, this very small aspect of the Scenic River Law has caused great confusion over the decades – causing some communities to fear designation as some sort of ‘land grab’ by the Department of Natural Resources,” Newton McAllister explained. “Ironically, this very language in the Ohio Revised Code meant to specifically limit the Director’s authority to only public projects within 1,000 feet of the river can be confusing and result in the opposite, unintended effect.”
Newton-McAllister continued to say that her group has been interested in the concept but was holding out for further clarification of language.
“FoSBC has been interested in exploring designation for quite some time, but we realize that the success of the program depends on the community welcoming the designation. Since the language in the law has caused so much confusion, FoSBC has waited for the language to be clarified. We believe communities will be more receptive to having their streams recognized if they clearly understand that government will have absolutely no authority over their private lands along the creek. Recently, Ohio Senate Bill 156 was introduced that proposes several amendments to the Scenic River Law, including this clarifying language.”
FoSCBC reported that they are in support of these language changes and have invited a representative from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to their Annual Meeting.
“This will be a great opportunity to learn more about the Scenic River designation process, the proposed changes to the law, and to ask questions,” Newton-McAllister said. “We also hope to have a farmer from the Big Darby Creek Scenic River attend as well so we can hear from a landowner about how designation has or has not impacted their community.”
The FoSCBC Annual Meeting will be held February 17 at 10 a.m. at the Union Township Fire Station and Community Center, located at 50 Arion Road, McDermott, Ohio.
The Friends of Scioto Brush Creek, Inc. is an all-volunteer organization whose mission is to maintain and improve the water quality of Scioto Brush Creek through education, awareness, and involvement of local residents.
Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2024 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.