MADISON COUNTY, KENTUCKY (FOX 56)– Curtis Eades spends long days working in hot, dirty conditions and then goes home to unwind. He sits in front of a fan in a loft at his home and makes art.

“There’s so much I want to paint and do and not enough time to do it,” Eades said.

He puts brushes to bottles and literally turns trash into treasures.

“It’s definitely cheaper than having to go into a craft store and buy all the materials.”

He gets his art supplies by the bag full from creek banks and ravines.

Eades lives along Tates Creek in rural Madison County, where he enjoys scenic views and the sound of rushing water, but two years ago it was a sorry sight.

“I looked out over the water and it had been raining, so the creek is way up and I just watched mattresses, one by one– five of them that floated by,” Eades said. “So immediately, there was anger, there was frustration, and before I know it, I’m running up and down the whole creek cleaning up whole sections.”

That’s how he got his nickname- Creek Runner. Now his almost-daily trash collecting trips have become an exercise regimen for him. Friends have helped pick up 15,000 pounds of trash so far. They find joy when they’re down in the dumps.

“Because if you do it, you might as well make it fun, right?”

He puts videos of his creek running on social media to show how rewarding it can be and they’ve been a splash. He’s gotten responses from people all over the world who say they’ve been inspired to do the same things in their community.

“I’ve heard from people in Baltimore, California, coast to coast, Nigeria, messages from people in India, it’s a great feeling,” Eades said.

You can find him on Facebook at Creekrunner242.

Eades says he’s mostly “working for nature” these days, but he makes a little money to support his mission by selling his artwork on Etsy.

He cleaned up ten miles of Tates Creek and has now moved on to Owsley Fork Reservoir near Big Hill, a beautiful place for recreation. But he has a big chore not far from the shore, where illegal dumps can be found in many ravines that feed into the reservoir.

“Water is life and these creeks and streams are the veins of the planet and we’re clogging them up with our trash,” he said.

It’s trash that he often hauls home because he can envision ways to keep it out of landfills. It’s called upcycling when he makes art out of jugs and jars, wires and tires.
Every day is like a treasure hunt.

“You name it, I’ve found it.”

This dirty work would seem overwhelming to most people, but Curtis Eades can see a brighter day.

“Yeah the trash is horrible, but I get to be out in nature sometimes all day and it’s great.”