Connecting with water

Whetstone Brook Clean-Up a community effort

A bridge over Whetstone Brook at Founders Landing is pictured. The Whetstone Brook Clean-Up event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Attendees can meet near the brook along Founders Landing in Marquette for the clean-up and are encouraged to bring boots and gloves, organizers said. The clean-up is funded by the Michigan Volunteer River, Stream and Creek Cleanup Grant Program. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — Rivers, streams and brooks in the area can carry a number of things to Lake Superior — litter included.

For those looking to help keep litter out of the local watershed, the Whetstone Brook Clean-Up will be held Saturday by the Marquette County Conservation District and Megan McConville, assistant professor at Northern Michigan University’s Earth, Environmental, and Geographical Sciences Department.

Volunteers can meet at 10 a.m. Saturday near the mouth of Whetstone Brook, which is located along Founders Landing in Marquette, organizers said. Attendees will have a chance to walk along the brook and pick up litter, heading toward the new U.P. Health System-Marquette hospital located along West Baraga Avenue and then returning to the Founders Landing area for lunch, with the event wrapping up around 2 p.m.

There may even be prizes awarded for the most trash collected or the “most interesting item found,” McConville said, noting that the group plans to “just make a good time of it.”

The event aims to bring individuals together to pick up litter while connecting with one another over the brook and its importance to the area, McConville said.

Whetstone Brook is pictured near its outlet into Lake Superior. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

“It’s a day event of cleaning up a stream, but hopefully with bigger implications that just bring multiple people, agencies, individuals and community together to think about this watershed,” she said.

It’s important to clean up Whetstone Brook, McConville said, as it flows directly into Lake Superior from the Founders Landing area. This means “if we don’t get it now, it just goes into the lake — and it’s much harder to retrieve any of the waste after that point,” she said.

“We’re kind of the last barrier before it reaches the lake,” McConville said.

The Whetstone Brook Clean-Up also aims to raise awareness of the brook, which empties into Lake Superior at Founders Landing after flowing through Marquette Township and the city of Marquette. However, the brook is largely unseen in some areas, as some sections of it are routed through a pipe underground in urbanized areas, flowing underneath parking lots and other areas in the city and township.

“This river certainly gets its influx of urban influence, probably more than any other system,” McConville said.

Because of the unique nature of Whetstone Brook, McConville also hopes to hear attendees’ “stories from the watershed, what people remember from the past, transformations that they’ve seen, and their interest in preserving this particular watershed. And maybe what we could do differently to make it a resource and not just something that gets buried beneath our city.”

The brook’s importance to the area and it’s path through a changing urbanized area also make it an interesting topic for research — McConville and NMU student Lynnae Branham plan to monitor the stream and multiple metrics of its health over time.

McConville hopes to develop a comprehensive monitoring program to assess the health of the brook, and use the program to help undergraduates at NMU develop research skills in the field, preparing them to run their own water research projects in the future.

With the clean-up and future research planned, McConville hopes to pull many people together to care for and better understand the local body of water.

“I think there’s a lot of promise that this stream, I’m hopeful that it gets healthier but having a sense of that would be really neat,” she said.

The clean-up is funded by the Michigan Volunteer River, Stream and Creek Cleanup Grant Program, which provided a $2,400 grant for the project. Those who would like to volunteer are encouraged to bring gloves and boots. For more information, or to RSVP, email to lbranham@nmu.edu.