Ever think about the water and energy connection?
These six Skyline High School students sure do. They recently worked with HRWC to produce two great videos about the Huron River watershed and how saving water saves energy!
Pat Jenkins, the teacher in charge of the Communications, Media and Public Policy magnet, approached HRWC last summer with the goal of having these students work directly with the organization on specific issues. This group chose to work with HRWC on the “Saving Water Saves Energy” program – above other options!
Each student had their own reasons for choosing HRWC. Nivetha, who was already passionate about environmental issues, thought that it would be a good way to get involved with and change the local environment. She wanted to raise awareness about the problems our community faces in terms of water usage. Eric, on the other hand, had no prior knowledge of water use or conservation issues. This gave him the opportunity to learn more about it. The group had some experience with energy conservation projects, but had never specifically thought about water conservation or the relationship between water and energy.
The group first decided that their goal for the videos was to raise public awareness about the water issues in Ann Arbor, and to provide solutions that everyone could use. They particularly wanted to target high school students as their audience. So how do you do that, you may ask?
For “Saving Water Saves Energy,” the CMPP students took a clever approach by including HRWC’s H2O Hero. Each student dressed up in the hero costume throughout the video in order to show that if they can do it, you can do it! They demonstrated making easy, small changes at home that have a big impact in the community. Their video can be found here.
Okay, so – what exactly is a watershed? That’s what our students got to figure out while producing their second video. Through doing research and participating in River Roundup, they saw the term “watershed” shift from an abstract concept to a very specific one. They learned what it is, and what role it plays in our ecological system and our own drinking water. “What is a Watershed” featured students from multiple high schools in the area. So, you recognize your friend in the video? Hey, maybe you’ll want to learn what a watershed is, too! The video can be found here.
Let’s get dirty!
In order to get a better understanding of the issue and HRWC as an organization, the students participated in multiple events outside of school. They went to an HRWC River Roundup and a bug identification day, and said that both were great experiences. For River Roundup, they accidentally drove in the wrong direction – for 40 miles! Once they got to the stream monitoring site, the girls weren’t too keen on touching a bunch of bugs. The boys did the dirty work while the girls kept track of exactly how many bugs they found.
Maybe I should stop taking those 45 minute showers…
Before working on this project, Nivetha was always aware that she should probably be taking shorter showers. But that’s okay, right? After producing two videos on water conservation, she had a very different perspective. Now, she is actually motivated to follow her own advice! She felt that participating in River Roundup really helped the message hit home. She saw the source of her own drinking water in front of her and understood that she needed to take better care of it. The other students also felt that they have been conserving more water lately than they did before participating in the project with HRWC.
So if it changed their behaviors, what about their friends or family? According to the students, friends were not that into it. However, their families were! Diana said her family was easy to nag and remind them to be water and energy conscious. In her house they actively try to cut down on dishwashing and laundry loads.
The main consensus of producing the videos was positive. The students really enjoyed making them because they were in charge of everything – whether it was acting, directing, or editing. They played every role! Plus, they got to dress up in the H2O hero costume. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
In this edition of our river news round up, read about river heroes from young to old, take a look back at your community through time using a new Google tool, learn what you need to know about ticks.
Muir Middle School Students Participate in Project GREEN, Clean Up Huron River Getting children out to the river is such a great way to build a connection to our environment. A group of middle school students spent a day in the Huron cleaning up trash and taking water quality measurements. Thanks to Mrs. Gustafson’s class at Muir Middle School in Milford for helping protect the Huron River!
A look back at modern-day John Dingell in Ann Arbor As a clean water advocate and good friend of HRWC, we want to say congratulations to John Dingell for becoming the longest serving member of Congress. He has been a strong advocate for the people of his district and has helped communities of the Huron River Watershed on many issues important to our quality of life.
Watch Michigan change over time using Google’s ‘Earth Engine’ Do you remember “how it used to be?” Take a look back in time with this cool new tool from Google that lets you look at your community and how it has changed over the recent decades. Notice anything interesting, fun or sad? Let us know in the comments.
There’s a tick boom in Michigan – Here are 5 things you should know As many of our field volunteers can tell you, it is a bumper year for ticks in this area. Don’t be alarmed. Just be aware. And use this resource and others to make sure that any ticks you may encounter did not leave behind more than an itchy bite and creepy feeling.
Preparation begins for $3.16M reconstruction of Madison Street in Old West Side A new road project is set to include features that reduce stormwater impacts to the neighborhood residents, city infrastructure and the river. Features like larger storm pipes and rain gardens can keep water out of our streets and basements. The gardens, in particular also help keep pollutants and detrimental flows from reaching the Huron. A large portion of this project is funded through Ann Arbor’s stormwater utility – a steady source of funds for proactive projects that help protect the river from stormwater impacts.
Grand Opening Celebration, Saturday, June 22, 5:30 to 8pm.
The City of Ann Arbor, in partnership with the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office, recently completed a streambank stabilization project on Traver Creek,
extending through the Leslie Park Golf Course. The project corrected severe streambank erosion and addressed high volumes of sediment and attached pollutants that were being removed and deposited downstream.
This project is a partnership between the city and the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office. Departments within the city that worked collaboratively include Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation, Natural Area Preservation and Water Quality Management.
The scope of this project included Traver Creek being regraded, stabilized and naturalized. This project will alleviate downstream flooding, and address bank erosion as well as reduction of the phosphorus load in Traver Creek, tributary to the Huron River. In addition, there was an opportunity to create an area with native wetland plantings to establish an inline constructed wetland. Constructed wetlands are one of the best methods for pollutant removal, mitigation of peak flow rates and even reduce runoff volumes. They also can provide considerable aesthetic and wildlife benefits.
Interesting project-related facts:
- Length of channel: 3,300 feet
- Earth moved: 30,000 cubic yards
- Native Area/Wetland created: 6.5 acres
- Native restoration: 10.2 acres
- Erosion prevented: 687 tons annually
- Native trees planted: 79
- Native shrubs planted: 347
- Species of wildflower seed planted: over 50
- Daylighted/reestablished the Arrowwood branch of the Traver Creek
- Aquatic habitat structures installed to create riffles and runs
- Approximately $865,000 received in grant funding for water quality improvements
Flooding and bank erosion not only affect water quality, but increase golf course maintenance and sometimes limit golf play. For these reasons, the project was designed to help stabilize the creek channel and increase the drainage capacity of Traver Creek on Leslie Park Golf Course. The ponds on holes 12 and 17 were reconfigured to slow runoff that occurs after a rainstorm and will help capture sediment.
HRWC staff and volunteers conducted water quality monitoring prior to and during construction. We plan to continue monitoring for the coming 3-5 years to determine effectiveness of the project. Prior to the project, it was determined that the section of creek being repaired was releasing 48% more phosphorus than upstream and 200% more than downstream sections. Also, HRWC volunteers, along with Leslie Science and Nature Center camp youth conducted benthic macroinvertebrate evaluation, temperature study, and water chemistry analysis.
The public is invited to see and learn how the improvements benefit water quality, the environment, and enhance the golfing experience at the award winning Leslie Park Golf Course. The grand opening event takes place Saturday, June 22, 5:30 to 8 p.m. and will feature tours, games, and refreshments will be served.
A team of volunteers and staff from HRWC and the Huron Clinton Metroparks found over 80 different species of wildflowers, trees, and grasses on just under a mile-long stretch through a 100-acre portion of Huron Meadows Metropark recently. The metropark, one of 10 that run along the Huron River for much of its length, is home to 1,000 acres of upland forest, wooded swamp, grassland, fens, and wet meadows, as well as the Huron River itself, which makes it a great destination for hikers in the summer and cross country skiers in the winter.
This summer, HRWC’s bioreserve project is leading field assessments on Metropark properties, as well as properties local land conservancies are working on protecting, in order to provide the Metroparks and conservancies with detailed ecological information to aid in their management and preservation efforts.
The field assessment for Huron Meadows will help Metroparks staff target invasive control efforts in the natural areas within the parks. For instance, the team found a large wetland complex on the west side of their survey area that flowed beyond the park to border Ore Lake. While high quality, the wetland would benefit from a glossy buckthorn control effort on its southern side, but was mostly free of invasives to the north. The team also discovered several vernal ponds pocketed in low lying areas within the oak-hickory forest hills that are most likely great habitat for frogs and salamanders.
Day 5: Lower Huron Metropark to Lake Erie
6.5 hrs paddling
After another quiet and peaceful night camping, we’re up early for an 8 am start. Mike George arrives to accompany us as far as Oakwoods Metropark, and Jim Pershing, Superintendent for the Park arrives to bid us a Bon Voyage.
This next stretch of river is perhaps the best kept secret of the whole river. It’s surprisingly remote and mostly natural with few houses or intrusions; only negative is the constant noise of jet traffic overhead (choose a day with north winds if you can when paddling this stretch, as the jets will be taking off in the other direction). Herons, Kingfishers and Orioles escorted us along the banks. Sycamores, Catalpas and Redbuds provided the greenery. We didn’t glimpse the Paw Paw trees but knew they were there. Future Water Trail mile markers and sign posts will be a welcome addition as landmarks are few and far between. Highway and railroad bridges are soon passed and we enter the backwaters of the Flat Rock impoundment and Oakwoods Metropark, a wonderful stretch of oxbows and bayous.
Our weather karma wanes a little as the east wind gets funneled down the lake giving us a stiff headwind for the crossing. Mike George waves goodbye and heads for the Nature Center, and we set our sights on the right end of the Flat Rock Dam anticipating the portage and lunch stop ahead. Flat Rock Metals has graciously left the gate unlocked so the portage is surprisingly quick and easy, we move our gear to the bank below the low dam by the covered bridge and enjoy our well deserved lunch. Ten miles to go.
The current helps along for the next few miles and the woods gradually gives away to more open marsh and wetlands. A few more houses along the banks with some impressive metal breakwalls, and soon the Jefferson St bridge is in view. We pause to collect the group and marvel at the remains of the circa 1800 plank road [editor's note: the road built for the War of 1812 known as Hull's Trace] visible along the shoreline and ready for the last push across the river mouth to Pt. Mouillee. Kay, Klaus and Aileen are there to greet us with our shuttle vehicles await in the parking lot.
What a great adventure. I couldn’t have asked for better paddling companions and our shore support was wonderful. Once I get home and unpacked, notes and photos sorted, I’ll post a Trip Epilogue with more details and observations. Until then, thanks to all that made this adventure truly special.
Total river miles: 101.8
Total hours paddling: 28
Superior Pond to Lower Huron Metropark
4.5 hours moving
Laura Rubin joined us last evening for a few hours, we had a lively and very informative discussion on a wide variety of topics all river related. Peaceful night, no bugs. Up early again and on the water by 8 am, a short paddle to our first portage– Peninsula Dam. This portage is pretty straight forward and fairly easy, but lack of maintenance has led to deterioration of the landings making it hard than it should be.Back on the water a fairly fast ride through Ypsilanti. We all remarked on the waterfront potential of this town and could envision an active vibrant face to the river with the restaurants, shops and boardwalks.
On to Ford Lake, our weather karma continues with cool temps, overcast skies and no wind– perfect paddling conditions. Here we leave the second phase of the river leaving behind the glacial moraine features and enter the glacial lake bottom evidenced by the high clay or gravel banks that the river has cut through on it’s way to present day Lake Erie. Portaging the Ford Lake Dam took some effort and teamwork of the group but we were soon back on the water headed for Belleville, stopping for lunch at Van Buren Park where Willow Run enters the river.
Did I mention Belleville Lake was long? Seemed to on for ever and the motorboat wakes reflecting off the breakwalls didn’t help. But we did eventually arrive at French Landing, tired but not beat. The portage here is difficult if not impossible so we used the backup plan– Kay was called and helped us with a car shuttle into Lower Huron Metropark.
A short paddle brought us to the canoe camp which is now part of the new Walnut Grove Campground, causing some confusion. Al Heavner joined us for awhile with more lively discussion about the river in general and education in particular including the No Child Left Inside Program. We were all excited by another visitor, an all white bird that flitted and perched around the campground causing much speculation. We determined it was a white phase Kingbird, something none of us had ever seen.
Long day ahead tomorrow, 25 miles to Lake Erie.
Day 3: Hudson Mills to Superior Pond
6.5 hrs paddling
Total miles (so far) 60.09
On the water before 8 am. Up close and personal look at the tornado damage from March 15 2012. Some impressive “tornado art” just above Mill Creek. Great blue herons escorting us all the way down the river. Several elected to run Delhi Rapids; the rest of us chose to portage.
I forget how nice the stretch below Delhi is to paddle, must do it more often.
Our good paddling karma continued with a tailwind across Barton Pond, two egrets and an osprey inspired us on. Quick stop to salute the Huron River Watershed Council staff then on to lunch at the Argo Livery before tackling the Cascades. Be sure to stop and enjoy the Ned Sharples bench in front of the livery–he inspired many of us to paddle and enjoy and protect the river. We ran with empty boats without incident but all dragged our sterns on the rock on the last drop.
Easy run across Gallup Pond and quick portage over the Geddes Dam put us in Superior Pond. We discussed the history of this forgotten and peaceful stretch of river, waiving to the Governor and ogling the mansions on the high bank. We end the day at a secret campsite we’ve nicknamed “Superior Bluffs– a gated community”.
Two days, forty miles, four challenging portages to go…
All is going well for Ron and the crew. Visit HRWC on Facebook for more photos from their trip.
Day 2: Island Lake Camp to Hudson Mills
6.5 hrs paddling
2 hrs stopped
3.4 MPH moving avg
Peaceful camping overnight, no drinking water available on site. Paul Seelbach (one of the original Riverfesters) joined us in the evening for the rest of the trip. 8:00 am start on the water through one of the nicest stretches of the river. Deb and Klaus joined us at Place ways for the day. The rest of the morning was very pleasant paddle dodging fallen trees. First lunch at Huron Meadows, then on to the lakes.
Good paddling karma gave us light following breezes across Strawberry, Woodburn and Galleger Lakes and got us to Base Line where we stopped for second lunch at the Michigan Sailing Club. Paul explained how we were leaving the first phase of the river– upland wetland woodland and entering the section that works its way through the rocky, gravelly glacial moraines.
Mink, muskrat, great blue heron, orioles, catbirds, kingfishers, killdeer, cygnets riding on the back of a swan, owl (barred?), pileated woodpecker.
Many carp splashing, suckers along the bottom and small mouth bass. A fisherman at the rapids at Hudson Mills reported catching (and releasing) 27 this day.
Great day on the river, 60 some miles to go . . .
Last weekend we braved the windy weather in hopes of learning the in’s and out’s of fly fishing. Our instructor, Mike Mouradian of Ann Arbor Trout Unlimited, educated four separate classes on casting, knot tying, fly identification, and entomology; along with the help of experienced instructors from AATU, and Colton Bay Outfitters. The lessons were held in beautiful Lillie Park North of Pittsfield Township, just off of Platt Road. Lillie Park is an old abandoned gravel quarry that has been transformed in recent years, into a stunning retreat from urban life.
The lessons were comprised of informative lectures, and hand’s on activities; classes were set up in categories such as Family, Women’s, and General to better suit the needs of the participants. Thanks to all of the aspiring Anglers for coming out last weekend, and to the dedicated instructors for contributing their time and knowledge of the sport so that participants could get the essentials that foster correct fly fishing.
The Fly Fishing Lessons are one of our many Summer Recreation Events this year. Upcoming events include:
Birding, Saturday, June 8, at 7:30 AM– 9:30 AM (Free, all ages. No registration required)
- Paddle Trip, Saturday, June 15, at 10 AM (Registration is required here)
- Single Fly Tournament, June 15, at 10 AM (Registration is required here)
For more information on these events and more click HERE.
For the next five days, we’ll post blogs from Ron Sell and his merry crew of paddlers as they complete their through-paddle of the 104-mile long Huron River. We look forward to hearing about their adventures and sharing their observations with you.