Cuyahoga Falls -- The city has its own version of "American Pickers" going on in the Cuyahoga River, but unlike the reality show's stars, these treasure seekers are risking injury and breaking the law.
The city has been cautioning people to stay out of the riverbed since the Sheraton Mill Dam and then the LeFever Powerhouse Dam were removed and the river has decreased in width and depth.
But the lure of pulling from the mud or shallow water a souvenir, antique or conversation piece has been too great for some people. The page for Facebook group "You Know You're From Cuyahoga Falls When..." looks like a cross between "Antiques Roadshow" and a 1970s water pollution PSA. Members have posted photos of glass pop and milk bottles, a rusted rifle, a wooden duck decoy, a safe and a river bank covered with old tires.
One photo that had been posted and later disappeared showed two people pulling a cart out of the river. Someone commented that the cart was placed back in the water when a construction worker stopped the pair from taking it.
"We know we have scavengers out there," said Cuyahoga Falls City Service Director Valerie Wax Carr. "We don't like that, but unless I have an officer out there 24 hours a day, I cannot necessarily control that."
Wax Carr said the river from Prospect Bridge to Water Works Park is a construction zone. "There is no reason for anyone to be in the river unless they are authorized," she said, adding that walking in or around the river would be dangerous because of the presence of broken glass, rebar, logs, timbers, metal and jagged rocks in the river. And the bed of the river, both under water and along the edge, is mucky, she said, and anyone who walks on it could get stuck.
"They need to stay out of the river and the riverbed," Wax Carr said. "They need to stay up on the former shoreline." Carr is referring to the shoreline which existed before the dams were removed. The river's level has dropped and its width has narrowed since the dams were taken down.
In addition to safety concerns, there is the issue of possible historic significance of found artifacts.
"We are not encouraging people taking things," Wax Carr said. "In fact, they need to leave those things alone." The city is working with an archaeologist and local historian Liz Cross to determine what objects should be saved for historic value.
"If we find out someone has taken something of historic significance, we will prosecute," she said. "They don't own it … We are asking people to please respect the history of the community."
Wax Carr said workers have set aside a handcart, wagon wheel, timbers possibly from a wooden dam, a steel wheel and a wheel barrow, all of which may have historic significance. She said the city is planning a public viewing of the artifacts.
If people want to help clean the river, Wax Carr said, there will be a river cleanup on Sept. 28 when the public is invited to pitch in and help. Anyone interested can call the city Service Director's Office at 330-971-8240.
On a side note, because the river level is down, Wax Carr wanted to caution everyone about the depth of the river below a popular jumping-off point. "We have people who jump off the Doodlebug Bridge," she said. "We had someone drown there a couple years ago. They shouldn't be jumping off the Doodlebug Bridge, especially now because the water is only 6 feet deep."