Residents Clean Up Oakland Township's Mill Race, a 'Precious Commodity'
Over the course of the last month, residents have worked hard to improve the Paint Creek Mill Race.
Sharon McKay’s eyes welled with tears as she described the community effort that went into cleaning out the Paint Creek Mill Race over the course of the last month.
“It’s just beautiful down there now,” Oakland Township Trustee McKay said.
Back in April, McKay organized the first cleanup, which was held on April 21. It took two more cleanups, one May 5 and another May 19, to get the mill race cleared of branches, trash, leaves and more.
“This was the perfect opportunity to do it because there is no water,” she explained. “People will see this now and not think it’s a ditch.”
“We’re getting it ready to take back to its original use,” Janine Saputo, Oakland Township planning commissioner said.
The mill race has been without water for months since the removal of the Paint Creek Dam, a project that was approved by the Oakland Township Board of Trustees in October. Residents are hopeful that water will soon be on its way. Wade Trim, a civil engineering firm, was approved for a six- to eight-week study of the mill race beginning in late March, to analyze the mill race flow situation and come up with possible solutions to get water flowing properly again.
Wade Trim will present its findings at an upcoming board meeting and board members will decide whether or not they would like to move forward with one of the potential solutions. If so, the project will go out for bid.
“There’s no hidden agenda; all we want is water,” said Greg Olson, an Oakland Township resident who lives along the mill race.
“I think we’ve turned the corner,” he said hopefully, describing the mill race as a "precious commodity."
McKay is delighted with the cleanup, which resulted in a quarter-mile stretch of smooth terrain along Mill Race Trail. Prior to the cleaning she said it was "treacherous."
The Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Department aided the effort by hiring a professional tree service to cut up the fallen trees in the mill race to make it easier for residents to move the parts of the trees into piles and burn them. Along with moving logs, McKay said it was a lot of raking dead leaves and she was happy to find there weren’t too many paper products littering the mill race.
“This is very important from the standpoint that it shows that the community cares,” Oakland Township resident Tom Asmus said.
At all three of the cleanup dates about 15 residents helped in the efforts, including board members, planning commissioners, Oakland Township Historical Society members and more.
McKay was thrilled with the number of people who turned up to help clean out the mill race and equally happy that new faces were in the mix at every cleanup. On each da,y the bulk of the participants pitched in a few solid hours, while McKay noted some residents dedicated their whole day to staying on site until all of the fires were out.