It's been a long time coming, but Little Hunting Creek is going to get a good cleaning this summer.
The tributary of the Potomac River, which meanders through trailer parks and around $300,000 homes in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, will be cleaned up by an unusual group of environmentalists: eight teen-agers who live near the creek in the Hybla Valley section of Rte. 1.
The nine-week cleanup project, which began yesterday, is being financed by a $28,287 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Youth Conservation Corps, which is part of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Historic Resources' division of parks and recreation.
"I feel real good about the project," said James Robinson, 15, who attends Walt Whitman Intermediate School and who has been hired for the cleanup.
"It doesn't bother me that it will be hard work, because we'll be getting all the garbage out of the river," Robinson said. " . . . The trash is killing most of the fish in the Chesapeake Bay, and that upsets me."
Last week Robinson and the seven other teens on the cleanup crew were taken on a field trip to the Chesapeake Bay where staff of the Environmental Protection Agency taught them about the impact on the bay of trash in tributaries running into the bay.
According to Denis Paddeu, manager of youth services for Fairfax County Manpower, which will administer the program, the teens will be paid $4.50 an hour and will work 40 hours a week through August. Their work day will consist of tromping through poison ivy, mounds of debris and swamp conditions to clean up the 1 1/2-mile section of Little Hunting Creek that runs south from Rte. 1 to the Potomac River, just north of the Mount Vernon estate.
Paddeu said about $1,000 will be spent on gear for the teens and on equipment. The trash will be hauled away by the county trash service, and the Northern Virginia Soil Conservation District will provide expertise for the project.
"We're going to make an attempt to sort out this trash and keep a data base of it in the computer to keep track of how much of it is recyclable," said Richard Reed, a Manpower employe who will direct the project.
"We'll be working in the field in the mornings, and in the afternoons we'll be conducting analyses of the cleanup in the Manpower office" at the Hybla Valley Shopping Center on Rte. 1, Reed said.
The youths, ages 14 to 17, will also be preparing community education presentations that they will make throughout the summer to civic groups and other community organizations in Fairfax County. "The purpose of the presentations is not to show people what they've done, but to teach them not to throw trash in the creek," Reed said.
"Most of the trash comes from upstream in the form of shopping carts, wood and debris that has caused several small dams that have altered the whole flow of the creek in many sections," said Fairfax County Supervisor T. Farrell Egge, who represents the Mount Vernon area.
Other students hired for the cleanup are Grady Taylor, Warren Slater, Leroy Singletary, Timothy Clayborne, Derrick Easley, Patricia Richburg and Antonio Branch.
"I have pride in the country, and to clean up what other people throw out is all right because I have the time and the patience and I'll do it so that the water and the fish in the bay will be okay," said Richburg, 17, who attends Hayfield High School. "It's made me think about a career as an environmentalist. I want to be an agent with the EPA."
Singletary said he is looking forward to the challenge "because I've learned how the animals in the bay are all dying because of the trash . . . and I'll get to work with my friends."
Singletary's mother Joann said her son is happy to clean up the stream "because his father always stressed cleanliness . . . . His father died six months ago and he was always concerned about the environment. His father would be happy that Leroy is doing this."