Volunteer crew cleans garbage from the iconic Forty Mile Creek

Duncan Storey (far left), Owen Korstanje (middle) and Jennifer Korstanje show off some of the garbage pulled from the Forty Mile Creek (shown right) in Grimsby

A determined crew of eight adults and children braved the chilly, flowing water of Grimsby’s Forty Mile Creek on Saturday, to clean up a segment of the historic waterway.

The team, headed by native Grimsby-resident Duncan Storey, cleaned garbage out of the Forty Mile Creek from the Elm Street bridge to as far as they could go in the agreed hour time slot at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“We combed and cleaned from the North side of Elm St. down to about Pizza Pizza just before the Main. St. bridge,” explained Storey. 

The volunteer creek cleaners ranged in age from three months (Storey’s daughter Momo) to their 40s. They included Storey, his wife Ayumi Storey, Councillor Dave Sharpe and his son Logan, 2, and Will, 4, as well as Grimsby resident Jennifer Korstanje and her son Owen Korstanje. All are native Grimsbonians, except Ayumi Storey, Duncan’s wife, who is originally from Japan, but is now a Grimsby resident.

It is not the first time Storey has led a Forty Mile Creek clean-up crew. Storey said he and is brother Basil always try to bring back garbage when they hike the Bruce Trail or from along “the Forty” when they hike.

In July, during a lunch at Faί-Mama’s Kitchen in Grimsby, “I asked Dave (Sharpe) about the bonfire area down past Remax beside the creek which was absolutely filthy in garbage. We hiked down there together and took photos and decided to clean it ourselves with some help from some of the group who came this week,” said Storey

Leaking lawnmower pulled out of the creek

They pulled a lawnmower out of the creek that was hurting the waterway with leaking fluids, and they removed a load of rubbish from the teenagers who party at times near the fire pit. 

“We had a great time and decided to do it again in a different section of the Forty Mile Creek. We didn’t really organize it properly. (I) only sent out an email and then a Facebook post at the last minute, so the planning could have been better to garner more interest,” he explained. 

The creek was in better shape than the team expected, he said, but there was “still more garbage than we’d like to see in the trout, salmon and other species habitat.” 

The brown trout are supposed to run from October into November, he explained, “but due to global warming and weather changes there hasn’t been enough rain for them to swim upstream.” 

The team filled five large garbage bags and extracted everything from a mop, a single shoe, beer cans, lots of plastics, and cardboard. Much of it Storey, said, comes from the downtown strip mall which backs onto the creek. Garbage blows from dumpsters behind the mall into the flowing water.

People dump garbage in the creek

People also dump garbage in the creek, Storey speculated. He believes it is likely a result of the reduction of the garbage pick up frequency that started in October by the Niagara Region.

“It started to get worse the closer we got to Main Street. We wanted to get the garbage out before the first big rain fall washed it out to Lake Ontario and looks like we just got ahead of the rain today,” Storey said.

Storey said that he walks past the creek every day and sees the garbage collecting. He said eventually it hit a breaking point “knowing the town doesn’t really seem to do it, so it’s up to us.” 

Storey’s passion for civic cleanliness comes from his late Grandfather Llewellyn “Pat” Brown, known as the Governor of the Forty, who was very involved with the town of Grimsby as a member of the Friends of the Forty. Brown became an advocate for a clean municipality, and Storey has followed in his footsteps. 

grave of Governor of The Forty
Duncan Storey’s grandfather’s grave: “Governor of The Forty”

Storey has even garnered the nickname the Sheriff of the Forty, “because I sort of police unofficially by yelling at people bothering the fish trying to spawn or breaking bottles and so on,” he explained.

He has lived close to the Forty Mile Creek since childhood. Minus a few years travelling the world, it has allowed him to keep an eye on things. He grew up at the base of Mountain Street in two houses across the street from each other, one which backed onto the Forty. “The creek was literally my backyard,” he said. 

A grateful community

After a grateful community posted numerous thank-yous on Facebook for the crew’s clean-up effort, Storey is talking about bringing back the Friends of the Forty 2.0 and getting better organized.

If you would like to join in the effort and get involved in the Friends of the Forty 2.0, when it gets created, you can email Storey at [email protected] to get information on future clean-up dates. 

“Cleaning up garbage from the creek or anywhere in nature is fun and rewarding. Any teenagers who need community service hours should pick this activity,” said Storey.  “Hey, nobody bothers the person in the mud picking out garbage and says they’re doing it wrong!”

He said if half of the people in Grimsby picked up seven pieces of litter, it would amount to 100,000 items off of the sidewalks, parks, waterways, ditches and forests. “Imagine one item per day!” he speculated.

The Forty Mile Creek holds a special place in the hearts of Grimsby residents, because a settlement on its banks in the 1870s was the beginnings of what the town of Grimsby is today. Before it became known as Grimsby, the town was called “The Forty” by its founding residents.