There are lots of tell-tale signs around Jonesboro of our natural heritage. The native plants and hills of Crowley’s Ridge are just two examples. But if you stop and consider the many bridges of Jonesboro, you are close to discovering an equally important part of our natural heritage – the watersheds of Jonesboro. Many of the “ditches” we cross everyday are actually creeks. At one time, they provided fresh water to the native tribes and wildlife that called the Ridge their home. They made it possible for the first white settlers to put down roots and water their livestock and crops. These days, we tend to rely on these “ditches” to move stormwater off our streets and out of our neighborhoods.
Their water impacts more than just our community. Depending on where you live in Jonesboro, the water that ends up in a creek near you will flow into one of three rivers: the Cache River, the L’Anguille River, or the St. Francis River. If you live in west or northwest Jonesboro, you can pretty much count on your water flowing into the Cache River. Water from the Valley View area flows into the L’Anguille River. Water from almost all the rest of Jonesboro flows into the St. Francis River. The waters from all three rivers ultimately join the Mississippi River and flow to the Gulf of Mexico.
It is easy to forget about the creeks of Jonesboro because in many cases, they have been enclosed with drainage pipes and covered over. Or they are hidden by development or vegetation. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes. And yet, where you see a bridge around town, you are seeing what remains of natural creeks that we cross every day. Think Gee Street, Harrisburg Road, Wood Street, Stroud, North Patrick, East Nettleton, or Race Street--all streets whose bridges we cross without thinking about the creeks flowing under them. Some of them are vaguely familiar to us: Christian Creek, Lost Creek, Higginbotham Creek, Bridger Creek.
So why do the creeks and watersheds of Jonesboro matter? And what do they have to do with trash? They matter because what we toss as trash, if not disposed of properly, can end up polluting that water and every community downstream. Even if the trash itself does not go downstream, harmful chemicals and microscopic particles in the trash do (think cigarette butts or Styrofoam containers). In fact, the L’Anguille River has been declared an impaired river due to high concentrations of pollutants. Trash, big or small, complicates Jonesboro’s ability to control how quickly neighborhoods are able to drain off stormwater after a heavy rainfall. Clogged drain pipes and drainage ditches are a constant source of maintenance for our city. And we have all seen pictures of wildlife which died because their insides were full of man-made products that were thrown away improperly.
Next time you have trash to toss, think about where that trash might end up. Next time you cross a bridge in Jonesboro, remember our great natural heritage and your responsibility to preserve it.