Eslava Creek, in many spots, is a mess of overgrowth, only safely passable by our drone that flies over a neglected stretch along Dauphin Street. That’s where News 5 Assignment Editor Brad Gunther and I climb back into the kayaks and continue our journey.
“What is that?,”I asked as I looked up at the bank to see several plastic jugs scattered throughout the brush. “De-greaser containers. Heavy-duty degreaser containers,” Brad said, pointing out that these jugs were most likely thrown out by an employee of one or more of the fast-food restaurants a few feet away.
Across Dauphin Street, the water’s shallow again. But, unfortunately for me, not shallow enough and water seeps into my thigh-high rain boats, soaking my socks.
Above us, Jim Johnson flies a drone camera to show we’re right behind the Cracker Barrel and the Walmart; not where’d you’d expect to catch a fish. But, Brad pulls out the fishing poles and drops a line into the water. Seconds later, he pulls a tiny Blue Gill out of the oil-slicked water. Not much of a fish….but a fish nonetheless.
“Ugh. You made it look so easy!” I told him with frustration as I took my turn waiting for a fish to nibble.
After several painstakingly long minutes, I finally pulled one out of the water, only to shake the line too much with excitement and send him flying back down below.
“I just got too excited! I lost him!” I told Brad.
Soon, we’re joined by Casi Callaway, Executive Director of Mobile Baykeeper. She tells us some of the major issues she sees on this portion of Eslava Creek.
“Heat from the roadways. The heat from the highway and the parking lots spill into here. Oils and greases from our cars sitting in the parking lots do too. It adds a triple layer of pollution,” Callaway told us.
“If we do nothing, it will just continue to look like this times 10. More pollution problems. More issues. More sewer spills and more litter. How can a community love and understand waterways if this is the one they see and they only ever think of it as a ditch? This is a river, it’s not a ditch.”
For Casi, making improvements starts with a new mindset. “Stop looking at this as a roadside ditch. Start recognizing as you drive along beside it, you’re looking at a river,” she said.
Before we say goodbye, we take a moment to clean up. It doesn’t make much of a dent, but it’s a good place to start. Remember each beer bottle, plastic bag, or styrofoam cup will eventually find its way into Mobile Bay if we don’t start reclaiming the creek leading into it.