Alex Palmer's Natural History Notes and Thoughts

Thoughts and reflections on various social and environmental issues, as well as naturalist observations from the great outdoors.

Just ditch it: The fate of Plyleys Run

A large ditch runs past my apartment complex in Chillicothe, Ohio.  It’s a long ditch, extending from some ponds at a housing complex near US 50 and traveling all the way down Plyleys Lane into Paint Creek.  In fact, the more I gaze at this ditch, the more I realize that it isn’t a ditch.  Why?  Many sections of the ditch have trees and plants growing in and along it.  The ditch also consistently has some water flow in it.  Also, the ditch meanders somewhat away from Plyleys Lane, an otherwise linear two-lane road.  Most importantly, the ditch lies at the bottom of a valley, a sure sign that this ditch was once a naturally flowing stream that has now been modified in order to allow for all of the housing developments, including the one I am in.  However, since I am the only one that seems to notice this stream (or even care), I will have to give this unnamed tribuarty of Paint Creek (a large creek near my apartment complex) a name.  Since it runs along Plyleys lane, I will call it Plyleys Run (see Map 1 for where this stream is located and see Photos A and B for what this stream currently looks like).

Map A: Approximate course of "Plyley's Run." Paint creek is just south of the range of this map and is not shown.

Photo A: "Plyley's Run" as it passes my apartment complex off of Plyley's Lane in Chillicothe, Ohio. Notice how the channel of the stream has been straightened and lined with cobbles, and how there is little vegetation along its banks. It looks more like a man made ditch than a natural creek.

Photo B: Another shot of "Plyley's Run" looking upstream.

This sort of modification of a natural stream into a narrow ditch is nothing unique to Plyles Run.   It has happened to dozens of small streams and tributaries across the United States.  Rivers and creeks that we don’t find glorious and scenic are often destroyed or manipulated in ways that we see as fit.  Based upon my observations of other small valleys like the one I live in, Plyleys Run may have looked something like the small stream shown in Photo C.

Photo C: "Plyley's Run" may have at one time looked something like this stream. This picture is of Stoney Creek in the Scioto Trail State Park and Forest in southern Ross County, Ohio.

We must become advocates of “underdog” streams and creeks.  We must modify not the waterway itself but rather the way we do development in the valleys of these small runs.  Filling in our landscape’s nooks and crannies damages wildlife habitat, increases erosion, and can degrade our drinking water.  It also weakens the aesthetics of our towns and communities.  Let’s not bear  any longer the fate of Plyley’s Run.

A trickle of water flows down a small tributary of Baker's Fork on a wet spring day at Fort Hill State Memorial in Highland County, Ohio.


2 responses to “Just ditch it: The fate of Plyleys Run

  1. Dad August 31, 2011 at 7:52 pm


    You should be submitting these essays for publication in the local newspaper. They are thoughtful, provocative and entertaining. The locals will shake their heads in agreement with your pithy insights your comments and the editor will relish the positive feedback (and more sales) he receives from readers.
    My suggestions: call or write the editor and provide him with a brief description of your background and experiences for the past 6 months. Ask him if he would consider publishing your brief essays as either a op-ed piece or as a regular column. The worse thing he can say is “No thanks” The best is “let’s give it a try”. Trust me, there is no one else near you as perceptive about this area!


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