Lost and Found: A flotilla of figurines from Ellicott City flood

Among all the debris that washed out of Ellicott City in the July 30 flood was a beer keg from a local brewery that ended up on the shores of Fort McHenry and small ceramic figurines from one of the Main Street stores damaged in the torrent. The colorful miniatures, still attached to Styrofoam packaging, floated into the Patapsco River and downstream, and some have been found as far as five miles away.

Julie Lawson, executive director of Trash Free Maryland, mentions this during her appearance on the Roughly Speaking podcast, Episode 143.

About 80 of the figurines, many of them Christmas characters, were found within a week of the flood in the Patapsco near Ilchester Road. Others turned up along the river near its passage beneath the Baltimore Beltway.

Lawson heard about this and created a Twitter hashtag (#ECTreasures) so that anyone who comes across one of the figurines, even months from now, might report it to her organization. She cites two reasons for that: The possibility that the item might be returned to the Ellicott City merchant who lost it, and the possibility that Trash Free Maryland could learn about currents and debris flows by tracking where each figurine is found and when.

Mary Catherine Cochran, executive director of the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area, says one of the figurines turned up during her group’s recent cleanup of the Patapsco between Bloede Dam and the Orange Grove section of Patapsco Valley State Park. The item was turned over to the park.

A spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources confirmed that park employees will collect anything that appears to be a personal or salvageable item for possible return to its rightful owner through the Howard County government.

On Aug. 24, more than 30 volunteers with Patapsco Valley Heritage recovered a mannequin foot, a fork, a window frame with shards of glass, a puppet, stuffed toys, a garage door, a spatula, a battery-powered radio, a doll’s torso, car parts, trash can lids, trash bins, a crushed recycling bin, furniture cushions, a CSX hardhat, unopened containers of parsley, turmeric and cinnamon, and even a kitchen sink.

“Most of the 4,500 pounds or so of trash we removed with volunteers was wood siding, parts of cars, carpet and other bits and bobs that were mangled beyond hope,” Cochran says. “There is not much intact that can be recovered.”

Cochran made a point of discouraging people from hunting for Ellicott City treasure, but suggested volunteering for an upcoming stream cleanup. Lawson says she’s interested in hearing from boaters and paddlers who might spot one of the floating figurines along the Patapsco or where it meets the Baltimore Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.