Group working behind the scenes to promote Symmes Creek

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2006

WATERLOO — Maps say there are 99 miles of the twisting, winding Symmes Creek and every mile of the waterway is important to one local environmental and recreational group.

Although many people in Lawrence County don’t know what the Symmes Creek Restoration Committee is, the group’s work is evident to everyone who visits the Symmes Creek boat ramp in Chesapeake or swim and fish along the sandy banks of the creek.

The nonprofit group was founded in 1977, and for nearly 20 years worked to remove log jams from the creek and promote local canoeing. In the late 1990s, the group took a different turn, now focusing on promoting recreation and educating people about the importance of keeping the entire watershed clean.

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Last weekend, the group met at the Symmes boat ramp area in Chesapeake to continue the work they’ve done there for several years.

The ramp was at one time closed because of more than four feet of sediment covered its base. Crews used backhoes to excavate the site and a plethora of volunteers picked up litter and debris.

Grayson Thornton, restoration committee chairman, said the cleanup is something that all the members look forward to twice a year because they know how vital it is to the boat ramp’s survival and the environmental-soundness of the entire length of the creek.

“We really want to promote the need for clean water and it starts in our creeks. Everybody knows that water is life,” Thornton said.

He said before the volunteers left the ramp last weekend, three boaters had already used the area.

“Each week as more and more pick up litter, we see many picnickers, fisherman and boaters enjoying the 6-acre park-like area,” Thornton said. “That makes it all worthwhile.”

The group collects trash and debris from various locations along Symmes Creek.

Another major project on the committee’s plate is the establishment of a 30-mile canoe trail named in honor of Arthur S. Ferguson Jr., one of the committee’s founding members. Through partnerships with Symmes Valley School District and the Wayne National Forest, the group is currently developing two launch sites that connect Arabia and Aid. There will be a total of six segments to the trail each that can be canoed in a few hours Thornton said.

“Canoeing is a great way to see the county in a different way,” Thornton said. “You don’t see the roads or anything else like that while you are floating down the river. You see the beauty of what the Indians saw when they were here.”

The committee is hoping that its work will serve as an inspiration to others who want to see Lawrence County’s waterways stay clean and serene.

“We have a beautiful county and we want to showcase that in all areas,” he said.

The committee meets monthly at the Ohio University Southern Nature Center at Lake Vesuvius. Their next event is August 12, when they will host the “Canoe Caper and Raffle” at the boat ramp. For more information about the group call Thornton at (740) 643-0522 or email the group at