Joe Agg devotes his Sundays to making German Mills Creek and parts of the Don River watershed cleaner places
Whereas most retirees pass their golden years sipping summer lemonade on relaxing porch swings, one 70-year-old Richmond Hill man continues his quest to clean up local waterways.
For the second year in a row, Joe Agg, of Richmond Hill Naturalists, is scouring German Mills Creek for plastic bottles, tires and other dumped trash from where the creek intersects Highway 7 all the way to beyond Bathurst Street and Gamble Road.
“Most people don’t like litter, but most people won’t bend over to pick it up, either,” says Agg. “My job is to get it out of the environment to someplace it can be disposed of.”
His interest in cleaning up the waterway began when he heard that municipal funding may be available for a worthwhile environmental cause. He pitched the idea of cleaning up the creek. Ever since his idea was approved, he and his volunteers have worked hard every Sunday from morning to noon.
Most of his volunteers are young students, he says, and he gets between 15 and 30 on average. The Town of Richmond Hill has helped find recruits with mixed results.
“You always get some, but you’re never sure how many are coming,” he says, adding that he would like to see some adult volunteers get involved.
Agg grew up in the area and knows the creek intimately from when he was a youngster himself.
“And I know what’s happened to it. Which is it became more and more of a garbage dump,” he says. The volunteers pick up hundreds of garbage bags’ worth of trash every year, with just one weekly cleaning in late July tallying 26 bags of trash and five bags of recyclable waste.
The bulk of the trash is made up of discarded plastic bottles, which he says never break down naturally.
Agg says his mission was partly inspired by his mother, “a picker upper,” and his father, who joined the Green Party when it was still in its infancy. Eventually, it seems his environmentalist genes caught up to him.
“I was just a young person growing up and not really worrying about that sort of thing very much,” says Agg. “But then you say to yourself when you get older, ‘Well, do I really want to die not having done something worthwhile?’ ”
The residents of the town of Richmond Hill certainly seem to think his year-round efforts are making a difference.
He says that he and his volunteers especially enjoy the odd motorists giving them a shout of encouragement or thanks as they drive by.
One passerby even produced a case of bottled water for the parched volunteers, says a thankful Agg, laughingly noting the irony.
However, even with the town’s support, Agg believes more can be done to counteract pollution, which he says kills animals, fish and plants.
He has come up with 40 suggestions for the town that could stave off pollution and hopes to present them to council soon.
Until then, he says he enjoys guiding tours along the banks of German Mills Creek and around other nearby waterways.
“I’m doing a specific area, but that’s not the only area that’s getting trashed on. It’s a general epidemic,” he says. “I’d like to see some general concern to stop littering.”
The Post salutes Joe Agg for his dedication to preserving the environment. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.