Neighbors, school groups, clubs, families and other creek stewards work together twice yearly to remove litter from Sligo Creek, both to restore its natural beauty and to develop a closer connection to this wonderful natural resource in the heart of our communities.

Sweep the Creek: An Initiative of the FOSC Stewards

During the Spring and Fall Sweep the Creek events, hundreds of people come out to help rid the park of trash, keep the water clean for wildlife and plants and experience the wonders of Sligo Creek in a new way. FOSC volunteers don gloves, boots, even waders, to collect an amazing variety of plastic, metal, glass and other trash that finds its way into the 8 mile length of Sligo Creek Park. Sometimes so many volunteers come out that we can also tackle eradication of invasive vines and plants under direction of a certified Weed Warrior volunteer and our Remove Invasives Program volunteers. Known as Sweep the Creek, it’s a FOSC signature program usually held over 2 days.

Sweep the Creek
Earth Day Weekend – April 22 and 23

Over 300 people picked up, plucked, grabbed and otherwise removed 200+ bags of trash and recyclables all along Sligo Creek, Long Branch and Wheaton Branch.

Thank you to everyone who joined last month’s Sweep the Creek cleanups over Earth Day weekend. More than 200 bags of trash and recyclables, and many bulky items like broken furniture, bikes, car tires, a grocery cart, and a vacuum cleaner no longer pollute the Sligo watershed water and land. (See the Sweep Photo page for some memorable finds from this and recent Sweeps.)

This Sweep, we started a new feature: sorting, counting and weighing the bottles, cans, plastic containers, and plastic grocery-type bags at three sites, in Sections 7, 8 and 9. By far the largest type of trash recovered at these three sites were “recyclable” items – a thousand bottles and cans to be exact. At Wheaton Branch Ponds alone, 594 plastic bottles, cans and glass bottles were retrieved, weighing just 32 pounds. These items pollute the ponds and creek as they decompose and float downstream into the Anacostia river.

Sweep Coordinator and FOSC Vice President Ed Murtagh will submit the FOSC data for inclusion in the MD Trash Survey. The goal is to gain insight into the prevalence of various trash types statewide and to advocate for trash reduction policies such as the Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging. Maryland could become the fifth state in the nation to adopt it. Read more at Trash Free Maryland.

A shout out by Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD)

A shout out via Twitter from Congressman Jamie Raskin to the East Silver Spring students who supported the Sweep with their artwork East Silver Spring Elementary students’ got a shout out from Rep. Raskin for their support of the Spring Sweep. Go Pandas!!

Check out the kiosk art in person or on this Blog Post or visit the ESS Students Send a Message page with lots more student art.

Thanks to ESS Art Teacher Will Thomas for his enthusiastic support of his students and the Sweep!

Hyper-local Sweep the Creek events in Sligo
over the MLK, Jr. Holiday weekend

FOSC volunteers really stepped up during the long weekend to clear trash and debris, and remove Non-Native Invasive plants. Thank you everyone!

Sat Jan 14th at Long Branch local park; Mon Jan 16 at Takoma-Piney Branch Local Park;
and 3 Weed Warrior events

These events were hosted by Montgomery Parks and Recreation, FOSC, DEP, and CHEER.

Join your neighbors as we clear Sligo Creek and Park of litter.
Help protect the health of the wildlife in the Sligo watershed and the Bay!

Sligo Stewards Notes-Oct 2022

FOSC Stewards are doing a lot in Oct!

The Stewards Hike in the Takoma Park portion of the park will be on Sat Oct. 15. The hike will focus on the rich human and natural history in the Park.

On Monday October 10th at 7 pm our Weed Warriors will have a Zoom Meetup with Ryan Colliton (Landscape Ecologist). He will talk to us about the Parks’ restored natural areas, Non-Native Invasive plants, and how Weed Warriors and Parks can work together to protect these biodiverse areas that are so critical to our restoration efforts in the watershed. While is geared for the Weed Warriors, FOSC Stewards are invited to attend too since this is a subject you will find interesting.

David Koelsch (Section 2) led a park cleanup for the Washington Adventist University. It was their Public Service Day for the students and staff.

Jessie Buff (Section 2) is leading an Invasive Vine Removal Training in the Seven Oaks Evanswood Citizens Association community through the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Recently, Walter Mulbry (Chair of the RIP/Invasive Plants Committee) and Ross Campbell (Steward Section 6) helped restore stream flow in the Flora Lane Tributary. Due to a maintenance problem, this restored tributary was not getting any water flow. They noticed the problem during a Weed Warrior workday and we were able to work with the Parks staff to restore the water flow back the tributary.

— Ed Murtagh, FOSC Steward Coordinator

Fall 2022 Sweep the Creek
Your time and effort made a difference

Thanks to everyone who came out to help with the Fall 2022 Sweep the Creek! And special thanks to all our Sligo Stewards who were site leaders at our cleanup sites!

There were over 300 volunteers at 14 cleanup sites in the watershed. We collected about 200 bags of trash and recyclable materials and lots of bulky items. Send us your photos of your “favorite” find!

In addition to cleanups, our Weed Warriors were also out tackling invasive vines and other non-native plants on projects on Saturday and Sunday.

It is hard for me to believe that we have had 20 years of Sweeps! For those discouraged by the amount of trash collected this weekend, I remember all the trash we collected in the first Sweep the Creek 20 years ago. It was a lot. Thanks to our regular Sweeps, there is much less trash out there than there was in 2002. Of course challenges remain; we still have trash hotspots within our watershed that need attention.

As part of our mission in protecting, improving, and appreciating the ecological health of Sligo Creek Park and its surrounding watershed, I am hoping we can soon restart our Litter Committee. The mission of the Litter committee will be to go the source of the litter/trash problems and find solutions.

We will soon announce how we plan to move forward in addressing litter.

— Ed Murtagh, Sweep the Creek organizer
[email protected]
Coordinator, FOSC Stewards
FOSC Social Media

See the choice piece of trash pictured below, and many great pictures on the Sweep the Creek Photos page. Please share your photos to [email protected], or post your pics on social media with hashtag #FOSCSweeptheCreek.

The Weirdest Discovery (from Section 1)

The weirdest discovery in the creek during the recent Sweep the Creek litter pick-up was this scuba diving headgear and tank, found in Section 1
Sligo scuba gear?!

You can Sweep the Creek anytime!

The less trash in Sligo Creek, the healthier the Creek, and ultimately the Bay, will be for wildlife and humans.

                              — Ed Murtagh, Sweep Coordinator

Ed Murtagh, Stewards Coordinator at FOSCA special thanks goes out to FOSC Steward Coordinator and Social Media maven Ed Murtagh who organized the Fall 2022 Sweep with Bruce Sidwell.

Recycle Guide

After the Spring 2022 Sweep:
A Letter from Ed

Dear Sweep Folks,


Thanks to everyone who came out to our Spring 2022 Sweep the Creek. Our 20th year of creek cleanups! Thanks especially to all the Sligo Stewards who were Cleanup Site Leaders at most of our sites and Valeria Espinoza, with the Montgomery Parks Volunteer Office, for her support!


We had over 300 people come out and collect over 150 bags of trash and recyclables. Lots of shopping carts, tires and other bulk trash were also removed. In addition, a number of groups came out earlier and did additional cleanups.


The Socol Real Estate team at the Spring Sweep 2022

I would like to encourage everyone to keep picking up litter in your community and when you walk in the park. The County is providing plogging kits for volunteers. You can email them at [email protected] to arrange a pick up of plogging materials. They had nice trash grabbers when I got my package.

We are also advocating for a trash reduction bill in the Maryland General Assembly session, SB292 – Producer Responsibility in Packaging. This would go to the source of our litter problems. Please express your support for the bill! See the Advocacy Letters page for a sample letter.


If you have not heard the exciting news, a new Bandalong Litter trap was installed along a tributary to the Northwest Branch on April 7. We will be monitoring its performance to see if we should be advocating for similar trash traps to protect Sligo Creek. Photos of the traps and ribbon cutting are on the NNWB website.

–Ed Murtagh, Sligo Steward Coordinator

Thanks to neighbors for a big sweep at the Wheaton Branch Stormwater Ponds Winter 2022

Thank you, Families, Students, Neighbors, Friends, for your enthusiastic participation in the Wheaton Branch stormwater pond cleanup on Sat, Feb 12. The weather was mild and just right for working outside. More than 30 participants, many of them teens and young children, came out to fill 50 trash bags with litter that repeatedly fill these ponds, which are important filtering agents for Sligo Creek. County workers are scheduled to pick up the bagged trash and recyclables on Monday, Feb. 14. Your spirit of volunteerism is a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift to our community! –Susan DeFord, Section 7 Steward

Fall 2021 Sweep the Creek

Neighbors across the Sligo watershed Swept the Creek of litter that polluted the Creek through storm drains, been dropped along the trails, tossed from cars, dumped, etc.

7 eastern painted turtles basking in the sun on a large discarded upholstered chair floating in the Wheaton Stormwater Ponds.

Seven eastern painted turtles bask in the sun on a large upholstered chair floating in the Wheaton Stormwater Ponds. Photo by Stephen Davies, Aug 18, 2021

Sligo Litter Listserv

To explore ways to address Sligo Trash collected from the creekplastic and other kinds of litter, we have established the fosc-litter listserv. If you have an interest in litter issues beyond the bi-annual Sweep the Creek litter pick-up, you are welcome to join the listserv. Email [email protected] to request an invitation to join.

Recently the Litter group discussed other ways to tackle litter in Sligo, including: installing a trash trap in Sligo; contacting other area organizations involved in litter reduction; pursuing bag and bottle legislation; restarting storm drain painting; listing hotspots for trash in Sligo; and other ideas.

Informal neighborhood group plogging/sweeps are continuing

Picking up trash along University Boulevard's new bike lanes.Litter along University Blvd is a major trash problem for Sligo Creek. Now that we have the protected bike lanes, it is safe enough for the Monday Morning Sligo Headwaters Plogger Team to plog (pick up litter) along this highway. Four bags of litter were collected on June 21! Great job!

Storm drain art: part of building public awareness that litter harms the creek and its wildlife

Students create artwork and awareness about storm drain flowing directly to Sligo Creek This June, students got creative in order to build public awareness about the impact of litter on the Creek. They painted storm drains with messages about reducing litter and clean water. Thank you!

Many people do not know that the local storm drains flow directly into Sligo Creek, unfiltered. Litter and other threats to wildlife (such as paint, solvents, sudsy water, pet waste, roadway salt and oil, etc) create chemical pollution that harms or kills microorganisms, insects, fish, and the animals up the food chain. In February 2021, roadway salt from the beltway killed hundreds of fish and salamanders in a single pollution event near Sligo Creek and Forest Glen Road. Per DEP, excessive salt from the Beltway is thought to be the cause.

Learn more about the impact of pollution on Sligo Creek water and wildlife on the FOSC Water Quality pages.

Litter covering the ground between two logs in Sligo Creek park.A group of volunteers getting ready to pick up a large pile of aluminum cans between two logs.Thanks to a partnership with the Montgomery County Parks Department, FOSC is able to provide gloves and bags for every volunteer. The trash and recycling that volunteers collect is picked up by the Parks Department.

To learn about the next event, check out the FOSC Calendar of Events. If you join Friends of Sligo Creek you will get our newsletter delivered right to your inbox so you have a convenient heads-up about upcoming events and what’s going on in Sligo Creek.

Many people collect trash and recycling between Sweep the Creek events. If you do so, you can put the materials you collect either in the trash cans in the park or dispose of them at home in your regular trash and recycling containers.

The Sweep the Creek program is an initiative of the Sligo Stewards and the Litter Committee. Please let us know via [email protected] if you are interested in becoming a member of the Litter Committee.

  • Meet your neighbors
  • Preserve and improve your creek and park
  • Enhance your skill set
  • Advocate for the Creek
  • Arrange a group activity for your club or group
  • Receive the Newsletter in your inbox
  • Get early notice of events and special opportunities
  • Be a part of a Committee that plans work events, speakers, outings or advocacy for the Creek.
  • Become a FOSC Steward keeping an eye on litter, invasive plants, water quality and pollution happening in the Creek.
  • Contribute to special projects
  • Fund outdoor events, expert talks, equipment for invasive plant/litter removal, materials for the kiosks in the park, water quality testing, and more
  • Support FOSC’s outreach to schools, civic groups, and all communities
  • Tell us about your experience at a FOSC event
  • Suggest an activity
  • Voice your concern about an environmental issue