The Merri Creek is in pristine condition thanks to locals picking up litter during their lockdown exercise.
Community group Friends of the Merri Creek says double the amount of people are now collecting rubbish along the waterway, which flows through the northern suburbs of Melbourne from Wallan to where it joins the Yarra River at Dights Falls, 70 kilometres downstream.
Paul Prentice picks up rubbish along the banks of Merri Creek.Credit:Eddie Jim
Waterways coordinator Julia Cirillo said there were usually about 400 people a year cleaning along its banks, but there had been twice that number since lockdown started in March.
"Community is really strong on the Merri Creek catchment," she said.
"They're out more, they're walking, they're seeing more of these issues, and saying 'I want to be involved', which is great."
But it's not only the creek that's benefiting as wildlife-killing soft plastic is pulled from its rapids.
"It's actually improving people's emotional and mental health," Ms Cirillo said.
"Collecting litter is a real tangible thing. It feels good that they've cleaned up, and they can say that they've done something for their local environment.
"It's also just connecting with your local nature. Nature doesn't rely on us, we rely on it."
More people have also been reporting litter, with app Snap Send Solve, which allows users to report maintenance issues to councils, logging a 37 per cent increase.
Merri Creek users reported a build-up of litter at Coburg Lake, which the creek flows through, after heavy rain caused rubbish to wedge between tree trunks and branches in early May.
Mayor Lambros Tapinos said the council had organised a number of clean-ups using a small boat, while it awaits traffic management support so it can remove the trees with a crane.
Before and after photos show transformation into a sparkling creek.
For the past 25 years, litter coordinator Paul Prentice has spent one day a month picking up rubbishnear Merri Creek.
The retired school teacher usually takes groups out, but during restrictions he's only had the sweet magpie-larks' song , the gentle rippling waters and the blossoming silver wattle to keep him company.
"Natural areas are just so important to our physical and mental and spiritual health," he said
"It certainly keeps me feeling happy and healthy and relaxed."
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Although new stage 4 restrictions will prevent people from collecting litter, locals will still be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour during the permitted one hour of exercise each day.
Mr Prentice, who lives by himself, said cleaning the creek among the gum trees had given him pleasure while he couldn't socialise due to coronavirus restrictions.
"It's just wonderful I've got these creeks to enjoy and make a contribution to keeping them tidy," he said.
"We're very blessed in Melbourne."
Visit Facebook page Merri Creek Litter Clean Ups for more information.
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