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.

Spring Sweep the Creek 2024
Sat. April 20 and Sun. April 21
Earth Day Weekend

The Creek needs your help!

Whether it’s a few minutes or a few hours, plan to Sweep the Creek of litter on
Sat, April 20 or Sun, April 21 along Sligo Creek, Long Branch, Wheaton Branch, or anywhere you see trash in the Creek or parkland.

Click to see a larger version.


Sweep locations by date and section. Note Section 10 cleanup at the Long branch Community Center is postponed.

Note: The Section 10 cleanup at the Long Branch Community Center has been postponed.

Click to see a larger version.

Sweep the Creek Site locations dates and times by Section.Fall 2023_Page_3


A Map of the Sligo Watershed showing the section boundaries.

Click to see a larger version.

Sweep the Creek Site locations dates and times by Section.Fall 2023_Page_2


The Sligo Watershed section boundaries in text format.

Earth Day Origins

Love Your Mother Earth

Why was Earth Day created?

Because there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act. There were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisc) created Earth Day as a way to force this issue onto the national agenda.

When was the first Earth Day?

In spring 1970, the first spring after the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire.

Later in 1970, President Nixon established the EPA. Learn more on the EPA website.

Barry Commoner.

The rule that “Everything must go somewhere” was originally formulated by Barry Commoner in 1971 as one of his “four laws of ecology” in The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology.

The other three are:
(1) Everything is connected to everything else,
(2) There is no such thing as a free lunch, and
(3) Nature knows best. 

FOSC tops litter removal stats in MoCo in 2023!

In number of volunteers and in pounds of litter removed, FOSC topped the list among volunteer groups in Moco in 2023! So far, we’re on track to remove even more this year. Thanks to all our volunteers, and if you can, join us!

FOSC removed the greatest amount of litter in Montgomery County in 2023.

MLK, JR Day Of Service 2024 – Postponed to President’s Day

Smiling woman holding her dog next to the trash bags she filled with litter at the Section 1 Sweep.
Two volunteers surveying the many trash bags and pile of bulky items retrieved from the Wheaton stormwater ponds during the President's Day cleanup
A dad and two energetic helpers with grabbers and trash they collected.
Mini Sweeps and a Weed Warrior Event

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

FOSC is honoring the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by offering 4 Mini-Sweeps on January 15th. Please join your neighbors to help clean up our watershed.

Note: The two mini-Sweeps in Long Branch are full, but the Mini-Sweeps at Piney Branch and Sligo Creek, and at the Wheaton Branch Stormwater Ponds on Dennis Avenue are open without restriction on the number of participants. No registration is required! And, a Weed Warrior and mini-Sweep will be held at Sligo Creek Parkway and Maple Ave, no registration required.

Please dress in clothing you don’t mind getting dirty, and bring any trash grabbers and work gloves you have. FOSC will supply trash and recycling bags, and gloves for those who need them.

If you have questions, contact the [email protected].

Thanks to All Who Joined in the Fall 2023 Sweep the Creek

Ed Murtagh, Sweep the Creek coordinator, sent this note:

“The Fall 2023 Sweep the Creek is over! I appreciate everyone who came out and helped. I especially appreciate all the Sligo Stewards who rearranged their weekend plans to come out on our rain dates of September 30 and October 1. We had 10 cleanup sites with over 150 volunteers, and we collected more than 110 bags of trash/litter. In addition to the Sweep the Creek, there will be a few more cleanups later this month with groups who want to help us protect Sligo Creek.

The good news is that several sites continue to have reduced amounts of trash in the park. Thanks to members and groups who collect litter between our Sweeps, we are making a difference.

Section 1 (below New Hampshire Ave) continues to struggle with trash and litter. Our Cleanup site leaders, Lyn, Susan and Kristin, reported collecting 27 bags of trash. Our Section 1 Stewards will be working with Prince George’s County to install more public trash receptacles. Hopefully, this will make a dent in the volume of trash in the creek. A lot of work remains, but we have a strong and engaged community.”

Ed Murtagh, Sweep the Creek Coordinator

New Sweep the Creek Dates: Sat, Sept 30 and Sun, Oct 1

The Creek needs your help!

Whether it’s a few minutes or a few hours, plan to Sweep the Creek of litter on
Sat, Sept 30 or Sun, Oct 1 along Sligo Creek, Long Branch, Wheaton Branch, or anywhere you see trash in the Creek.

Sept 30 and OCt 1 Sweep the Creek schedule
Sweepers in Section 4 at Kennebec St holding bags of trash and recycleables.

Sweepers in Section 4 at Kennebec St

Join your neighbors to protect the creek!

Click on the schedule, section map, and section boundaries to see larger versions.

2023 Sweep the Creek
on 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