A fresh startPublished 5:01am Sunday, June 9, 2013
He has only worked in the area for two months, but during that time, James Fett has received at least three calls from people who wondered if the Cedar River is safe for recreation.
That struck a chord, and now Fett, watershed technician with Mower Soil and Water Conservation District, is happy to join an ever-growing effort to improve local waterways and stir excitement about the opportunities they offer. This year, clean water advocates with the Cedar River Watershed District and Vision 2020 Waterways committee are going even further, thinking outside the box with scientific, historical and artful presentations. They’ve deemed June as Waterways Awareness and Appreciation Month.
“It’s something the watershed has wanted to do,” Ruzek said about the special month and series of informational and artful presentations at the Austin Public Library and Mower County Historical Society.
Ruzek, who is also on the Vision 2020 Waterways committee saw opportunities for partnerships with CRWD last fall, like many others did, including Sam Jewell, the chair of the Waterways committee.
“It’s got to be a team effort between the community,” Jewell said. “CRWD can’t do it alone.”
However, advocates may not have predicted progress would have come so soon. At a meeting several months ago, Vision 2020 members, CRWD employees and a Department of Natural Resourses trails employee all got together for the first time. They thought of even more ideas and solidified a bond between agencies that will make those ideas become realities, instead of just small talk. More volunteers have joined the DNR’s Adopt-a-River for 2013; the Cedar River received it’s State Water Trail designation last year from the DNR, and DNR workers will clear blockages and brush from the river so people can canoe without obstructions. There are plenty of plans for more access sites, too, and the DNR now has a web page for the river, including maps and water conditions (www.dnr.state.mn.us/watertrails/cedarriver).
Still, Vision 2020 members and CRWD aren’t done pitching their future goals. They want more volunteers, enthusiasm and awareness.
“As long as you’ve got community members that are willing to help out and be part of that process, that’s key to success,” Jewell said.
So Ruzek and Fett held the first in a series of waterway presentations at the library on Tuesday evening, “Water Quality — Reviving Our River.” They reviewed the Cedar River’s water quality issues and how the Adopt-a-River program has grown during the past two years on the Cedar. Fett has already seen the stigma attached to the Cedar and wants to do something about that.
“We do have these impairments by the [Minnesota Pollution Control Agency] standards,” he said at the presentation. “It doesn’t mean our rivers are not safe to fish in or swim in or canoe in.”
Though Ruzek and Fett would have hoped for more guests, four more presentations are on deck in June.
Jim and Merlene Stiles of Austin, members of several local conservation groups, attended the presentation, and they have watched clean-water advocacy grow in the past few years. They’re excited.
“I think a lot of people are getting involved,” Merlene Stiles said.
Merlene said what people see around a community represents that community’s values. And yet another unique awareness campaign could further show how local people value their river.
CRWD launched a photo project, encouraging the public to submit pictures of people enjoying local waterways from April through October of 2013. People can submit photos to the CRWD by posting on its Facebook page www.facebook.com/CedarRiverWD or by emailing bev.nordby@
To honor Vision 2020 for its efforts, the project is called Cedar 220, and aims to collect 220 photos with names and descriptions of what is happening in each photo. Ruzek, who has volunteered in Adopt-a-River and canoed on the Cedar knows all too well: People don’t realize the beauty of the river until they get up-and-close with it.
“It’s a great resource,” Ruzek said. “It took getting on the river and floating down it to get a different perspective instead of just driving over it.”
“Cedar 220” photo project
The project aims for 220 photos of people enjoying the Cedar or other local waterways between April and October, including names, locations and descriptions for each picture.
People can submit photos to the CRWD by posting on its Facebook page ww.facebook.com/CedarRiverWD or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about local waterways, recreation and clean-water initiatives, visit these sites:
Presentations for June’s Waterways Appreciation and Awareness Month
“Flooding in Austin & the Cedar River Watershed,”
6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 13, Austin Public Library
Presenters: Steven Lang, Austin city engineer for Austin; Justin Hanson, CRWD resource specialist.
“Cedar River Watershed: Photo History” — sponsored by Mower County Historical Society
Noon on Tuesday, June 18, Austin Public Library. Bring a lunch.
Presenters: Tim Ruzek, CRWD public outreach coordinator; and CRWD staff.
“Vision 2020 Waterways”
6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20, Austin Public Library
Presenters: Members of the Austin Vision 2020 Waterways Committee.
“East Side Lake: Past & Future”
6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, Austin Public Library
Presenters: Laura Helle, Vision 2020 director of creative vision; CRWD staff.