CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio - Cuyahoga Falls expected to see a faster river and better water quality after two dams were knocked down. The city got both. What leaders were not expecting was a surge in people plucking junk from the waters.
The issue has prompted city officials to threaten scavengers with possible prosecution.
Service Director Valerie Wax Carr said 20 to 30 people have been spotted or shooed away from the banks in recent weeks.
"We may have to take action to make sure they understand that belongs to the community and not to them," Wax Carr said.
At one time, factories lined this section of Cuyahoga River. Since the dams were taken down, the river level has dropped between 7 to 13 feet. As a result, the city said it believes items of historical significance could surface.
An archeologist is already examining several river items, including mill wheels, old wheelbarrows, factory parts and a boat's steering wheel.
"The city is not keeping anything. Everything will be cataloged with the historical society," Wax Carr said.
The threat of prosecution seems silly to some who argue a "finders, keepers" mentality.
"You're basically trying to take their freedom for picking something off the ground and keeping it... If you find it on the ground, it's yours," said Timothy Hyatt of Akron.
"If that's something that the city is concerned about, they need to be the ones down there getting that taken care of. Otherwise, if it's going to clean up the river, why not?" said Roy Duncan of Cuyahoga Falls.
Wax Carr said there is a larger issue. The area is still considered a construction zone, and city leaders worry someone could get hurt from glass and rocks or get stuck in the muck.
"We don't know everything that's under the water," she said,.
The city is planning a river cleanup on Sept. 28.