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Do you view Buffalo Creek as a smelly drainage ditch whose main function is to carry away waste? Or do you see it as a waterway with great potential - a place to canoe, to picnic, to rest in the shade?These are not rhetorical questions. The community's vision of Buffalo Creek will in large part determine its future.

As Alison Davis' series has so aptly shown, Buffalo Creek can go either way. It can continue in its present state - a stream susceptible to midnight dumpers, a flowing garbage pit of bottles, bags and hundreds of other kinds of debris. Or it can become what it once was (and still is in a few spots): a natural oasis, a place of grace and beauty, a healthy, burbling, gurgling waterway.

Yes, bureaucrats will make many of the decisions that affect the creek's future. But we all have an important part to play.

Look what happened in Portland, Ore. Several years ago, that city's Audubon Society chapter envisioned clean, clear streams, streams bordered by walking and biking trails, streams with fish swimming in them. Chapter members sold their vision to the community and the city has done much to realize the dream. Portland's streams are becoming a beautiful natural resource.

The same thing can happen here, through the Stream Green and Adopt-a-Stream programs sponsored by the local Audubon chapter. Those programs, along with progressive government initiatives, could rejuvenate our waterways.

As described in today's article, Stream Green advocates giving nature more of a hand in reshaping, and cleaning, streams. Channelization of Buffalo Creek has resulted in water that flows fast during floods - and that carries much waste and silt downstream. Construction of small wetlands and detention ponds along the stream's path, as Stream Green suggests, would slow water down, giving it a chance to cleanse itself. Dry dams, which only back up waterways during rainfall, also would help waterways purify themselves, and serve as barriers to trash.

The Stream Green program comes at an opportune time, as the Environmental Protection Agency has mandated that local governments create stormwater treatment programs to clean up local waterways. But will government be willing to accept natural solutions? Earl Tysinger of the environmental health division of the Guilford County Health Department, is one official who seems open to the idea. One method he supports: using shrubbery or other natural barriers to slow runoff from parking lots and other areas into streams. Water can pass through, albeit more slowly, but trash won't get washed in.

Community groups can do their part by advocating natural solutions to water pollution. But they can do much more. They can take part in the Audubon's Adopt-a-Stream program, in which groups pledge to do major clean-ups of adopted stream at least three times a year. Members can also help by regularly walking their streams to look for unusual discharges. And don't forget Greensboro Beautiful's Big Sweep.

Clean streams won't come overnight to Guilford County. But if enough people desire them, they can become a reality. Individual responsibility will be the key (especially concerning littering). Do your part. Spread the word. Get people interested, educated, motivated. Care enough to clean up our streams.


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