Several months ago I wrote about the accumulation of debris in a stretch of Rose Creek (or Rose Coulee) that wends from just north of 40th Avenue South all the way to University Drive. I suggested the jurisdictions responsible for the creek and associated flood control works apparently are content with the waterway as a trash tip -- a catch-all for whatever blows, flows or is dumped into it. I noted that a few residents of my neighborhood had taken on the cleanup as best they could, given that without proper equipment they could not reach much of the rubbish that is entangled in the creek’s beaver-downed trees, brambles and new-growth willows.

The flotsam and detritus are still there. I walk the paths along the creek at least once a week; I have not detected any official effort to clean it up. The crud is more visible in spring before it’s masked by leafy woodland thickets and the riverine understory. Spring is the best time to get at it, but it ain’t happening.

This spring, heaps up of junk in the creek are worse because there was no runoff to scrub the creek bed. Not only is last year’s trash still in the creek, but this year’s new garbage has added to the mess. It’s snagged in low-hanging tree branches, cattail beds, beneath the 40th Avenue South bridge, on muskrat houses and at bends in the stream. Water is low, hardly moving, so what’s stuck has stayed stuck: tires, shards of Styrofoam, sheets of plastic, batts of insulation, rotting cardboard boxes, paint cans, tar paper and roofing shingles -- all complemented by the metaphorical city flag of Fargo, the ubiquitous plastic bag festooning the trees, flapping in the wind, as if to celebrate the creek’s status as an unofficial midden.


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The creek is not an ugly drainage ditch. It’s an urban amenity that enhances the quality of life in Fargo. It’s a beautiful stretch of tree-studded greenery along a portion of the creek that has not been channelized, straightened and lined with concrete. Creekside trails for walking, running and bicycling are among the most used in the city. The park-like, long-sloped, grassed levees are used by picnickers in summer and sledders in winter. The planners and engineers who incorporated a meandering natural stretch of the creek into the city’s sophisticated flood control systems did exceptional work. It should be respected.

Access for cleanup is easier now than in previous springs when runoff was high. But so far, old trash is undisturbed and additional debris has piled in. Kind of comical that Fargo erected a new sign near downtown that says “The City of Far More.” Yeah, far more trash in one of the city’s most visible waterways.

Zaleski retired in 2017 after 30 years as The Forum’s editorial page editor. He is author of a new history book of Forum Communications Co. Contact him at or 701-241-5521 or 701-566-3576.