Residents, farmers come together to clean Black Fork River

Flooding issues in Shelby have been ongoing. One farmer said he remembered his dad and neighbors talking about cleaning the river in the 1970s when he was young, but nothing was ever done. Many people have come to realize it is a community-wide problem, not just an issue for this farmer or that neighborhood. As watershed proposals are discussed in the county, residents have become aware that the assessments put into place to pay for any changes will be made on everyone within the watershed. People have decided the time is here to do more than talk about cleaning the Black Fork River.

A group has formed and has done the research to find out what can be done legally to improve water flow from the City of Shelby to State Route 13, found a company with the experience needed to clear log jams and debris and raised $80,000 in just the first two days.

A pair of young farmers traveled the Black Fork from State Street in Shelby to State Route 13, at the 1020 line and noted where the restrictions and log jams were on the river. There were areas that little to no water was moving. The cleaning company, Tawa Tree Service, also traveled the route and marked the log jams, as well as dead and leaning trees that may need removed during the project. Tawa Tree Service, owed by Chris Roof, most recently worked on improving 82 miles of the Blanchard River. The Black Fork project has been broken down from bridge to bridge and looking at where the worst restrictions are. The group chose to begin near Ganges where they had easy access to the river and then moving westward as money and landowners allow.

The goal of the core group is to clean up the river “the right way” and do what they can legally while being fiscally responsible. They have done the research and know what they can do to improve the water flow. They are not removing any sediment from the waterway only removing log jams, leaning trees and dying trees which will become issues in the short term. Any funds left over from this initial clearing will be held in a fund for maintenance.

The next phase ahead for the Tawa crew is just north of Shelby at State Street and several log jams at Reservoir Three. The group has also been in contact with the affected township trustees to discuss requesting funds from the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, which they have recently learned are earmarked for these types of projects. The goal is to secure enough funding to complete clean up all the way to Charles Mill Lake. The projected cost is $263,315, and as long as funds are there, the crew will keep going.

Contributions, Volunteers Needed

To contribute to this ongoing effort, donations may be sent to the Black Fork Clean-Up Project, in the care of Kilgore & Herring CPAs LLP, 47 East Main St., Shelby, OH 44875.

The group is also asking for assistance from the citizens of Shelby and surrounding areas. Individuals are being asked to write to the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District and request that they clean the Blackfork River from State Route 13 down to Charles Mill Lake. Letters may be sent to MWCD, C/O Board Members, 2050 Reiser Ave SE, New Philadelphia, OH 44663. The phone number is 330-556-4816.

To follow the progress of the project, information and pictures are available at the Black Fork Clean-up Project Facebook page.

Contacts for the project are Dave Grauer, 419-295-3116; John Schroeder, 419-347-8317; Melvin Burkholder, 419-896-3788; and Brett Heffner 419-632-3845.

Black Fork River logjam
This log jam took 4 days to remove.

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