Caring for the Carolina heelsplitter and other critters in a Fort Mill creek
Steele Creek is much cleaner thanks to a group of Domtar summer interns and managers.
On Thursday morning, the cleanup crew met at Steele Street Park and hiked to the creek, where they collected 15 bags of trash —everything from plastic wrappers and water bottles to tires and an old car muffler.
Steele Creek stream runs through the Anne Springs Close Greenway, a 2,100-acre wildlife preserve and nature park with 40 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. The children of namesake and family matriarch Anne Springs Close donated the land to honor their mother’s lifelong commitment to recreation and the environment.
Domtar, a paper products manufacturer whose U.S. headquarters is in Fort Mill, promotes sustainable practices and manufacturing.
The company's media and community relations senior manager, Jan Martin, also serves as a chairperson for the Greenway's board of directors. She said the greater Steele Creek watershed is home to a rich diversity of plants and wildlife, including the Carolina heelsplitter freshwater mussel and several rare species such as the coastal shiner, red pickerel and Carolina darter. The heelsplitter is considered an endangered species and is under federal protection.
“Domtar’s summer intern cleanup project at the Anne Springs Close Greenway will help ensure that the Steele Creek stream — and the greater creek — remains a sustainable habitat for important local plants and wildlife,” she said.
The corporation makes a wide variety of everyday products from sustainable wood fiber. It’s one of the world’s largest producers of absorbent hygiene solutions and an innovator in absorbent technology.
A longtime partner of the nonprofit, Domtar, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless employee volunteer hours to the Anne Springs Close Greenway since 2013. Martin said the company believes in investing in the local communities in which it operates.
“Caring is a company value at the company and sustainability is one of our core corporate giving pillars,” Martin said, “which is why we’re committed to supporting the Anne Springs Close Greenway, which provides a nature preserve and green space that has tremendous cultural and ecological significance for our local community.”
Greenway Executive Director John Gordon said the preserve strives for quarterly volunteer projects since Steele Creek is part of the larger Catawba River watershed.
“It’s important to remove trash and other debris from our streams in order to promote healthy, thriving wildlife and also, in a larger effort, to keep our community waterways clean,” he said. “We pull toys, tires and other trash from Steele Creek. Often, our volunteers are shocked at how much waste we end up collecting.”
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student Heyward Lathrop was one of 12 Domtar summer interns to pitch in on the effort. She studies sustainability at UNC and works closely with Domtar's vice president of sustainability.
“Issues of the environment are near and dear to me,” Lathrop said. “I also think that it is so great that community involvement is such a big part of Domtar’s vision, so I wanted to help embody that. Plus, I loved getting outside and bonding with my fellow interns.”
Martin, who plays a role at both Domtar and the Greenway, understands the importance of the preserve. She said it serves as a buffer for urban sprawl.
“We are all aware of the tremendous growth in this area,” she said. “It is good to know that this 2,100-acre nature preserve will be here forever so future generations can enjoy this beautiful land.”