So you want to Adopt-A-Stream?

So you want to Adopt-A-Stream?
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Some of my favorite memories growing up involve my siblings and me “exploring” the creeks near our house. Streams are their own micro-ecosystems, and they have a wonder and mystery incongruous to their proximity to the manmade world. They unassumingly wind their way through the heart of our cities, while supporting an untold collection of natural wonders.


Wherever I go it seems I’m drawn to the nearest creek, river, stream, or lake and apparently I’m not alone, as Herman Melville observed in the first chapter of Moby Dick:

“Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. “


Fortunately, Mecklenburg County has over 3,000 miles of creeks for our enjoyment.

Not so fortunately, Charlotte’s storm drain system, like those of most municipalities, empties directly into our creeks and streams. Which is why, despite the fact that over 1,500 volunteers removed more than 33,000 pounds of trash from our streams last fiscal year, volunteers are constantly needed to regularly clean our creeks.


Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Storm Water Services has made adopting a stream astonishingly easy.
Here is a simple step-by-step guide to adopting your stream. The entire process takes about 20 minutes, max. The hardest part is selecting the best section of stream for you.


And anyone can adopt a stream; individuals, non-profits, businesses, you can even adopt a stream “In Memory” of someone special who has passed on.

The terms of the stream adoption agreement are straightforward and easily fulfilled. The contracts are based on two-year commitments during which you are only required to clean “your” section of stream twice a year…two cleanings a year, for two years…pretty easy.

stream clean up team

Storm Water Services provides everything you need for the clean-ups; from hip waders and gloves, to trash bags and those cool mechanical “grabbers” for picking up litter in the water and along the banks.

equipment-for creek cleanup

And after your second cleaning, Storm Water Services will put a sign up near your creek segment, recognizing you for cleaning “your” part of the stream. Though not the reason to adopt, it’s nice to get the recognition and the benefit of having your name, or your group’s name, associated with actively working to make Charlotte a better place to live.


But more than that, adopting a stream is recreation with purpose. It’s a great excuse to be outside, the wildlife and natural beauty are soul nourishing, and when you’re done, the stream is better than when you found it.


Renowned American Naturalist John Muir said it best:

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”


You might be surprised with what you’ll find when you adopt a stream. Last week as I was cleaning my section of Little Sugar Creek, I heard a rustling on the far bank and two majestic bucks came running down and through the creek. It was awesome, and it made me glad to have the chance to keep this stream clean for them and all of the wildlife who make this little waterway home.

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