What began as an annual lake cleanup for Jim Stinson and a half dozen of his fishing buddies has evolved into a monthly beautification project along the shoreline of Falls Township Community Park.
The so-called Stewards of the Lake spearheaded their cleanup initially at Levittown Lake before collaborating with the Falls Supervisors and the Parks and Recreation Department to relocate their efforts to the community park five years ago.
The overarching goal was to rid the lake and its shoreline of trash, and, more importantly, stray fishing lines.
“It’s a hazard to the wildlife,” Jim said, recalling a blue heron he and his friends saw flying while entangled with a fishing line. Eventually, the bird’s foot was chopped off. “It brought awareness to something we knew. It’s very detrimental to the birds and other wildlife.”
Falls supplies the group with trash bags and grippers for monthly cleanups.
Jim, who walks the shoreline weekly in search of trouble spots, also carries a hook.
In addition to the monthly cleanups, the Stewards of the Lake strive to educate the community about the dangers garbage and fishing lines present to the lake’s inhabitants.
“We’ll go over and say ‘hi’ and ask if they’re catching anything,” Jim said, adding that he reminds people to put their trash in a container. “Sometimes we show them pictures of what happens when birds get caught in fishing line.”
Jim and his group have also been helping with the township’s annual fishing derby on Memorial Day.
Through that effort, the stewards remind young fishing enthusiasts to do their part to keep the lake clean by taking their items home with them or properly disposing in a trash receptacle.
“If you don’t take care of it, it will go away on its own,” he said of the community’s natural resources and wildlife.
Jim and his informal group of volunteers are committed to making sure that doesn’t happen.
The group continued an effort started by a local Eagle Scout to add line receptacles at the park, essentially PVC tubes mounted on upright pieces of timber.
Excess fishing line can be tossed in there to be recycled – or used by birds for their nests.
Jim, a retired electrician of six years, spends much of his time at the park watching what’s happening.
He stays in regular contact with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission over the clarity of the lake and net tests performed to determine the health of the fish.
The group’s next project involves putting a manmade structure in the lake to create a habitat for fish breeding.
“Our hobby of fishing and wildlife conservation leads us to the things that we do,” he said.