OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation employees are draining the Bricktown Canal Tuesday, the first step in giving the mile-long waterway a thorough cleaning.

Crews have removed the Bricktown Water Taxi boats and are slowly siphoning the water out. Staff will then use small tractors, fire hoses and brooms to remove years of accumulated dirt and flotsam. They will also replace one of the canal's major circulation pumps and inspect the waterway's structure and drainage system.

The canal was last cleaned in January 2008. Parks and Recreation Director Wendel Whisenhunt said the city tries to schedule a cleaning every three to four years.

"The draining and cleaning is part of our regular maintenance of the canal and provides our staff the opportunity to inspect for any damage," said Whisenhunt. "People would be surprised by the amount of dirt and debris that can collect over a few short years."

People would also be surprised by some of the random items crews find hidden by the water in the canal. During the last cleaning, crews found cell phones, clothing, a baby stroller, sunglasses, a child's Walkie Talkie and a wallet belonging to someone from Alaska.

The cleaning is expected to take three to four weeks. The Bricktown Canal should reopen in mid-February, just in time for Valentine's Day.

"We always try to pick a time period to clean that would have the least impact on Bricktown businesses, tourism, Water Taxi and the community," said Whisenhunt. "As busy as the Bricktown area is, it's not an easy task."