The site of Barbara Bradford’s home near Canawacta Creek in Lanesboro, Susquehanna County, is as historic as it is picturesque. Built in the 1830s, the stone cottage stands amid the remnants of a small commercial district – complete with blacksmith and livery stable – that once occupied this spot. Though the home has been lovingly restored along with its original stonework and even many of its original stained-glass windows, little remains of the accompanying buildings other than bits of half-buried foundation.
Far more visible, unfortunately, is the residue of a more recent era: thousands of old car tires and other debris discarded here during the 20th century. Juxtaposed with the property’s otherwise scenic landscape, the tires create an unsightly vista that’s all too common in this part of Pennsylvania, where the lush green hills and valleys – now streaked with vivid blazes of fall color – are often blemished by illegal or illicit dumpsites.
“This used to be the Grant Brown junkyard here in Lanesboro,” says Stan Rockwell, a neighbor who’s out on this chilly Saturday to help clean up the historic eyesore. “Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s this used to be filled with junk cars, and people from the area would come around and take car parts.”
“I saw some old aerial photos recently that showed this whole area was lined with cars,” adds Dana Rockwell. “They must have just put all the tires here. But unfortunately it connects to Canawacta Creek, only about a quarter mile from the Susquehanna River. So if we get them cleaned up, that’ll prevent any flooding washing them into the river eventually.”
It took decades to build this mountain of rotting rubber. But it only took a weekend to tear it down.
Stan and Dana are among 23 volunteers donating a portion of their weekend to PEC’s illegal dumpsite cleanup program, which organizes events like this one all over the region in conjunction with Keep Northeastern Pennsylvania Beautiful and other partners. Today’s cleanup is part of a years-long restoration effort undertaken by Bradford when she bought the property: though she was able to afford renovation of the residence, removing a half-century’s worth of accumulated junk along the creek proved beyond her means.
“This is amazing!” Barbara exclaims. “One hour in, we’ve got one dumpster full and we’re working on the second. I’m so pleased.”
By day’s end, volunteers will have filled four thirty-yard dumpsters with mostly deteriorated tires. Tomorrow they’ll fill two more, bringing the total haul to 3,627 tires weighing in at more than 431/2 tons.
“We got a lot of tires here,” says Dana. “Wish we had a bigger machine!”
“Because of the condition of the tires they could not be recycled,” PEC program coordinator Palmira Miller said, “So we worked with DEP and Waste Management to get them into the Alliance Landfill where they will be split and disposed of.”
The good news: though it took decades to build this mountain of rotting rubber, it only took a weekend – a total of 153 volunteer hours – to move it.
“Hopefully this is the last time we pick up tires here,” says Stan.
We’re planning another cleanup event in Susquehanna County on Nov. 29. Can you help?