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A visitor wandering through the wilderness of the Sargent creek watershed, weaving through waist high ferns under a forest canopy, was surprised to discover so much human disturbance in what seemed to be a pristine area.


UPDATE!
Jump down to see what happened in 2005.

Major clean up in what should be a pristine trout stream


Past Action can have long term effects.

Sargent Creek in rural west Duluth runs for most of its length down the hillside through deep ravines within forested landscapes with little road access. Despite the remoteness, a dump site was developed years ago on the top of a hill near the creek. Dozens of tires were found in the adjoining creek bed at the bottom of a sloping meadow, perhaps rolled there for amusements sake? The tires were tossed by the flashy creek until they lodged at the bottom, trapping sediment and interfering with the bottom and flow of the creek.

In 2004, the upper dump site was cleaned up through the joint efforts of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the City of Duluth and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Funding was provided in part through support of Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program. The upper site now is returning to an attractive natural state.

The problem of the tires in the creek bed was taken on by the City of Duluth Stormwater Utility as a Summer, 2004 project. The Stream Crew faced a number of challenges in removing the tires including the steep slopes of the 1.5 mile ravine through which the creek meanders. Before performing the task, staff members walked the creek with Department of Natural Resources Hydrologists and Fisheries experts to discuss risks to the creek and how to manage erosion during cleanup.


A city worker points out tires lodged in the banks of Stewart Creek.

City Staff identified the following goals:

  1. Develop methods for efficiently removing tires using the least damaging machinery to minimize hand work (too time consuming on steep hillsides);
  2. Address all Department of Natural Resources concerns for protecting creek habitats;
  3. Minimize disturbance of larger vegetation and rock slopes;
  4. Restore the creek terrain including logs and rocks in a manner to discourage uninvited ATV's (all terrain vehicles) from using the creek bed as a playground while also providing good fish habitat.

Special equipment was required to perform the cleanup. The City arranged for a large lockable cage to be placed at a nearby Forest Service training site to store tires after collection. The City identified the Walking Excavator (affectionately called "The Spider") and an ASV (a small tracked vehicle) fitted with a hook as the appropriate machines for completing the work. The City also arranged to have an ATV available for hauling gasoline, water and supplies for the crew. A crew of five is assigned to the cleaning task.

An ASV (left) and The Spider (right)
were used to remove tires from the bed of Sargent Creek.

 

2005 Progress Update

In June 2005, Utility staff returned to the site of the clean up to evaluate condition. As seen in the pictures, the stream was returning to normal and the temporary trails were filling in with vegetation. However the action of heavy spring run off had uncovered an additional 18 tires in the stream. Later this summer, Utility staff will return to the site and remove the tires from the stream bed.