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Eco for the birds and us

Marion Reservoir Cleanup Day organizer Lloyd Davies reminded me this week that the county sits smack dab in the middle of the Great Plains flyway, the migratory route for thousands upon thousands of diverse species of birds.

Overflights of ducks and geese are things I’ve come to take for granted over the years, although on certain days I’ve eagerly filled my camera chip with shots of them at the county lake and reservoir. For the most part, though, they come and go with little notice from me.

Cleanup Day is in part about making the county’s largest body of water safe for these transient visitors. No one I’ve met gets as excited about picking up fishing line and trash as Davies does. Ecology is his passion and mission, and if you give him a few minutes of your time, he’ll do his best to make you a convert.

Thousands upon thousands of human visitors make the reservoir the county’s largest tourism attraction each year — nearly 67,000 came to fish, hunt, swim, boat, camp, and sightsee in 2012, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Those folks spent $2.2 million within 30 miles of the lake, the Corps estimates, creating 23 jobs and adding about $1.1 million in labor-related income and benefits, profits, and business taxes.

It’s been there for nearly 50 years, but as with the birds, most of us take scant notice anymore of the economic impact of the reservoir.

More attention has been focused on the reservoir of late as discussion has heated up about the county’s economic challenges, but talk has been almost exclusively about what the reservoir can do for us. Aside from renewed interest in remediating the problem of blue-green algae, little has been said about what we can do for it.

Don’t underestimate the positive effects that can come from picking up a few bits of trash and a few strands of fishing line. It’s all about customer experience when it comes to generating repeat business, and the same holds true for visitors to our lakes. While camping areas are maintained well, discarded trash along shorelines and trails is a bona fide turnoff to many, including myself.

I’ll pick some up if I have a pack or a bag with me, and sometimes I’ll even shove some scraps in my pocket, but I always rue what I can’t take with me. It’s ugly. It sullies the beauty I look for in nature.

Ah, but if ecology was reason enough for anyone to head out to the reservoir with a trash bag in tow, Davies wouldn’t be left wondering from year to year how many volunteers will show up for Cleanup Day. In fact, he wouldn’t need to organize such a day.

For those otherwise not so inclined, let’s make this about dollars and sense. The better we care for the reservoir, the more visitors we’ll see. More visitors equals more dollars, more jobs, more taxes that come out of other pockets to reduce those that come out of ours.

If you’re concerned about the economic future of the county, there’s something simple you can do April 23 to help. Take yourself, or better yet, take yourself and your employees, your Sunday school class, or your friends out to the reservoir and spend a fun half-day together putting trash in bags and pennies in your pockets.

With all the general talk about economic development, wouldn’t it be great to see county commissioners use their hands for something more than milking goats at the county fair? What a great excuse for “trash talk” between the county and cities — a little friendly competition among commission and councils wouldn’t hurt as they look for ways to collaborate on tougher issues.

When we hear that folks are coming to visit, most of us scurry like mad to make our homes presentable. We want them to feel good. Well, there are thousands coming to visit. We want them to feel good, too, and to come back. You’ll feel good by helping out. It would be half a day well-invested, with a guaranteed return.

— david colburn

Last modified April 14, 2016

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