When we moved into our neighborhood, the realtor casually mentioned that there was a creek with a walking trail nearby. As the winter thawed into spring we discovered the true beauty of the Quittapahilla Creek. We wander the trails often together as a family and my dad enjoys fly fishing when my parents come to visit.
Michael Schroeder, Executive Director of the Quittaphilla Creek Garbage Museum also found the creek when he moved here in 2008 (the same year that we did). He explains, "I was naturally drawn to Quittie Creek, and in my walks along the creek was stunned by the quantities & variety of plastic garbage. So I started taking little bags along with me to collect all the junk I saw along the banks, in the debris piles, in the woods, etc. Some of the items were pretty interesting or unique, and after a while it occurred to me (while looking at that little corner of my backyard): what about creating some kind of "Garbage Museum" as a way to display this stuff and make a public statement about the deplorable state of our waterways here in south-central PA?"
We've been following the Quittaphilla Creek Garbage Museum on Facebook and Earth Day seemed like the perfect time to visit the non-profit as a whole family. Michael has created what he calls "an effort to raise public awareness about how the accumulated effects of millions of tiny actions -- like tossing bottles & candy wrappers & bottle caps into the street -- can have enormous, planetary consequences, and a kind of ongoing act of political protest against this systemic, institutionalized madness."
This artistic display of discarded trash will have a profound impact on anyone who visits, from adults to children. As we put the kids in the stroller to observe what Michael has collected, I was reflecting on how our parenting decisions affect them, both by teaching them our ideologies and impacting their home on Earth. From cloth diapering to joining a CSA this year, our choices have changed even from when E was an infant only 3 years ago. Looking at these little faces daily inspires me to strive for a better future for all of us.
We stopped first to introduce our family to Mike who has a fascinating collection of careers. He's an assistant professor of History, a licensed residential builder, and a nationally certified massage therapist. He adds, "I grew up in Minnesota surrounded by lakes & rivers & so love water (my sign as a Pisces actually fits!). I've also done carpentry since I was a little kid, and this project combines my intellectual interests in issues relating to the environment; my skills as a builder; and my sense of dismay & sadness & frankly outrage at the way we treat our waterways."
Then we headed off to his backyard which provided an I Spy game for E from the interestingly hung litter. She was fascinated to find a teletubby plush, chapstick, a doll head ("I no yike that."), and medicine bottles.
Mike has designed the museum to withstand any repeated flooding like we experienced in the fall of 2011 when all of his previous collected work washed away. "'Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, garbage to garbage.' So I started over with the idea that whatever I built had to be sustainable, and be able to sustain a major flood. So that's how the Garbage Museum is designed -- all the "artifacts" are intended to simply float in the floodwaters, dangling from their fishing line, and when the waters recede, the garbage will remain on its tethers. That's the idea, anyway. We'll see if it actually works when the time comes!"
We will definitely be participating in the museum's events in the future. Mike frequently posts these events and finds on Facebook with interesting facts and figures included. If you are local, I can't encourage you enough to visit the museum which is open 24/7 to self guided tours. You might just be fortunate enough to run into Mike who I now view as a most valued neighbor. It is a pleasure to know that, along with the beautiful Quittie Creek, there is a like minded and artistic environmental advocate in our back yard as well.