Plastic bottles, fast food waste, old signage, a traffic cone and an entire blanket — these are some of the few things I’ve seen in Waller Creek while walking to class. The creek starts north of campus, flows through it and meanders on downtown. As a large and active college community we’re bound to litter, but Waller Creek deserves better than the state it’s currently in. UT and its community has a responsibility to keep Waller Creek clean.
Keep Austin Beautiful is a nonprofit service organization that was created in 1985 to maintain the quality of life in Austin by removing litter, creating sustainable spaces and general cleaning. Our city has a long history of volunteer service to uphold Austin’s natural beauty, and we — as the UT community — need to put our part in.
The UT community can do this in a variety of ways. We can put up more trash bins around the paths paralleling Waller Creek. We can post signs around the creek itself to not litter.
UT does have signage posted around campus warning passerbyers of littering at certain drainage spots, as trash can drain out into the creek. These are small, brown signs on the ground, and they need to be brighter and bigger. The current signs may not be noticeable to our busy community.
We can address Waller Creek’s litter issue through education. Making the members of our community aware of the effects littering can have on the creek is a vital first step.
Keep Austin Beautiful has an Adopt-a-Creek program dedicated to maintaining the beauty of the creeks in Austin, and since 2015, local churches have volunteered and picked up hundreds of pounds of trash from Waller Creek, among others. UT needs to follow in the footsteps of these churches and adopt the creek that runs through the heart of our campus and work actively to maintain its beauty.
Keep Austin Beautiful currently has large bi-monthly cleanups of Lady Bird Lake, which Waller Creek drains into. If UT were to host regular cleanups of the creek, we could potentially reduce the amount of trash flowing into Lady Bird Lake.
Trash in the creek can have bad effects on the ecosystem as well. Different types of litter might give off chemical leaks, which can harm or kill plant species in the creek and lake. Trash can also harm the variety of fish species that make up Lady Bird Lake and the Colorado River.
Waller Creek is beautiful, and right now it looks trashy — literally. The creek is a part of a complex ecosystem that makes Austin beautiful, and it’s a shame we’re not doing more for it. If the UT community comes together, we can keep Waller Creek clean and continue keeping Austin beautiful.
Rose is an English sophomore from The Woodlands, TX. He is a columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jeffsroses.