BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — After spending a muggy morning cleaning up areas of brush along the Maumee River, a team of dedicated volunteers will return this Saturday to do more work.
Using chainsaws, shovels and clippers, the group spent much of last Saturday morning cutting away branches and overgrown invasive plants and clearing debris that had taken over the area in a public parking lot below a steep hill at White and East Harrison streets along the very eastern side of the towpath trail.
Jon Fiscus, who has organized several community cleanup events, organized the cleanups along the river.
“I had been down there plenty of times, but all I did was park my car and run the towpath. Now, you can actually sit down there and look out at the river,” Fiscus said. “It’s a nice space and when it is maintained, people will want to go there and hang out.”
The city owns a large portion of the property along the river on the eastern side of the Fort Meigs Memorial Bridge. The Maumee school district also owns property behind Union Elementary, in what is considered “the flats.”
At the July 6 meeting, Maumee City Council approved a $16,000 contract with Feller Finch & Associates for design plans to pave the gravel lot and add a walkway for residents. Discussions are also underway to add a possible kayak launch where the old locks are located.
Maumee resident Jeff Farthing also helped with the cleanup. He became involved in efforts to improve the space after voicing his concern over a plan to install fencing around the Elizabeth Street pumping station, located one block west of the parking lot. Residents use that area to access the towpath trail and the fence would have blocked their access to it. When he asked city officials to reconsider those plans, both Maumee Mayor Richard Carr and city administrator Patrick Burtch met with him and decided to do just that.
Now, instead of putting a large fence around the perimeter of the pumping station, only a smaller area will be fenced, and two new gates will be installed along the approach.
“When I saw the plans, I felt compelled to speak up and I was so amazed by the response that I got from the city. They were so responsive,” Farthing said. “You hear all of these negative comments about the administrator and the mayor, but that has not been my experience – I am thrilled.”
Resident Mark Irmen, who lives on the corner of East Harrison and Elizabeth streets where the fence would have been installed, also met with Carr and Burtch about the proposed plan. Like his neighbor Farthing, he was very pleased with the response from the city.
“To have the city respond so positively by keeping this open is great,” he said. “Then to have Patrick and Rich come here and see it and want to make it better makes me want to be more involved with attending council meetings and get more of a feel with the different issues that the city is faced with,” he said.
Since buying his house in 1989, Irmen has created a landscape with a variety of trees including black locust, tri-colored beech, sugar maple, sweetgum and ornamental bushes. He enjoys working in the space and has kept up the areas outside of his property line.
“Over the years, I have made it a goal to try to keep improving it. I love the river and all of the nature and wildlife that this habitat makes,” he said.
He is especially happy that city officials visited his property and took the time to talk to him about it.
“Patrick is very environmentally minded, and he is working around what is here to get the job done,” Irmen said. “He is such a big plus for Maumee. I am glad that he has the wherewithal or ability to rise above all of the negatively to change things.”
The next cleanup effort along the river will take place on Saturday, July 24 from 8:00 a.m. until noon. Volunteers should meet in the parking lot at White and East Harrison streets.