Susan Taylor grew up playing in a tributary of the Magothy River, among dozens of children who swam and chased fish in Blackhole Creek's clear waters in the 1950s.
"Now you could hardly see your hand in front of your face," she said.
On Saturday, Miss Taylor hopes again to be among dozens of people on another tributary of the Magothy -- this time to remove garbage along Dividing Creek.
This will be the first volunteer cleanup of the creek organized under a county contract with Maryland Save Our Streams (SOS). The Glen Burnie-based nonprofit group has a $46,500 agreement to recruit and train volunteers to nurse several of the county's brooks, streams and rivers back to health.
When County Executive Robert R. Neall announced the contract, he said the efforts of volunteers are becoming increasingly important as the county cuts back on spending. In 1992, the county cut financing for monitoring programs run by what was then its Department of Planning and Code Enforcement.
Miss Taylor and Jonathan Pearson, SOS coordinator, expect the cleanup to kick off other volunteer efforts in the Magothy watershed. The idea is to create a reliable network of committed volunteers in the communities in the watershed to periodically remove trash, spot potential problems and map trouble areas.
A similar corps that includes volunteer water quality monitors, has developed in the Sawmill Creek watershed.
"We hope eventually to do a lot more for the Magothy River," Miss Taylor said.
Last weekend, the Arnold resident walked the area near the headwaters of Dividing Creek, off Jones Station Road.
"People have for years thrown things they did not know how to get rid of into the woods. They hope it will disintegrate -- it won't," Miss Taylor said of her inspection.
The Magothy watershed suffers from many of the same urban sprawl stresses as other waterways in the county, including pollution and run off from homes, businesses and industry. Debris ranges from small plastic items to tires, from cups to couches.
"The wetlands and the headwaters are filled with junk," said Ted Connell, president of the 400-member Magothy River Association.
He and other association members will participate in Saturday's cleanup.
"We want to mobilize a large number of people," Mr. Pearson said.
At least 50 are needed and 100 could be put to use, he said. Volunteers of all ages are welcome from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and should dress appropriately.
SOS started organizing the Magothy effort in January, and a group has been meeting monthly in Arnold.
The county first hired SOS in 1990 in a pilot program to organize volunteers along the Severn River. That three-year effort climaxed in 1991 with a one-day survey of the river and all of its tributaries by 200 volunteers.
That survey and the resulting report cost about $35,000; by comparison, SOS officials said, a private consultant would have charged the county more than $186,000.