Waters of the past

Published 7:01 am Monday, February 27, 2017

Outreach coordinator for the Cedar River Watershed District Tim Ruzek is looking to bring more awareness to our area waterways and he’s hoping a little historical perspective can help him out.

This effort, done through the accumulation of old photos, especially those dating from the beginning of the last century, will hopefully work towards reconnecting people with those waterways that made Austin what it is today.

“Another big component has been reconnecting our community with the river,” Ruzek said. “The river is the reason Austin was formed here. The community also used to, when there was swimming beaches, be out on the river — fishing and boating, all sorts of things.”

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That’s where the history comes in. Ruzek is hoping to amass a collection of old pictures, showing off how people in the early to mid-1900s made use of those waterways.

Tim Ruzek of the Cedar River Watershed District is hoping to bring further awareness to the waterways in the area through historical photos. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Tim Ruzek of the Cedar River Watershed District is hoping to bring further awareness to the waterways in the area through historical photos. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Pictures of kids fishing, or people out canoeing are perfect examples of what Ruzek is looking for and it steps in line with how Ruzek likes to bring that awareness to people.

“I like using history in my role with the watershed district, to show what things used to be like as far as the level of community interaction with the Cedar River used to look like,” he said.

Ruzek is still in the very early stages and hasn’t formulated any plans specifically of what he would like to do, but one of those ideas he’s been tossing around in his head is similar to a project that was highlighted last year at the Austin ArtWorks Center from May to July.

In that instance photos, paintings and drawings were collected from area artists to highlight the bodies of water.

While nothing specifically has been planned, the idea of another exhibit does appeal to Ruzek.

“It’s as great to see the response of others who either already had the work done or those who did new paintings or drawings or photographs,” Ruzek said.

Ruzek said he is primarily looking for pictures featuring the Cedar River, the biggest waterway to flow through Austin, but he’s also searching for anything that might involve the other bodies.

“Obviously the Cedar River is the main one, but Dobbins Creek in my experience is really an underphotographed waterway even though we have the nature center,” Ruzek said. “Even East Side Lake itself, there’s not a lot to come across.”

Another aspect Ruzek is hoping to showcase is how appreciation for the waterways has been growing, more than just the plans the CRWD has in place or are working on.

“Just seeing the amount of volunteerism with the adopt-a-river people,” Ruzek pointed out. “We’re pretty overwhelmed with the response of people wanting to adopt it.”

“Those types of projects also reconnect with natural resources and a lot of that recreation stuff we try to do.”

There’s more than simply getting pictures for this project though. Awareness through older pictures can be a striking tool, but there is much more.

“It’s the photos, but also the stories that go along with them,” Ruzek said. “I think it would be an ideal way to share those with the community.”

How the community can help

People interested in contributing in whatever way they can can contact Tim Ruzek at tim.ruzek@mowerswcd.org or by phone at 1-507-434-2603. People can also share their photos on the Cedar River Watershed District’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CedarRiverWD.

What to consider

•This project is one aspect of CRWD’s 10-year anniversary in 2017.

• Photos of river life from past decades, including canoeing, kayaking, swimming, boating, posing along the water, etc are being sought.

•Photos not just of the Cedar River in Mower County but also interested in Dobbins Creek, Turtle Creek, Rose Creek, Orchard Creek, Roberts Creek, Wolf Creek (stream that flows through Todd Park).

•Particular interest in seeing photos from the Horace Austin State Park era (Austin Mill Pond downtown).

•Full credit will be given to the person providing the photos — location and year or decade needed and names of those photographed preferred but not required.