‘Future river keepers’ – Bill Thompson, nature center emphasize water care

Published 8:10 am Friday, July 14, 2017

A model stream table sat in the middle of the classroom at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Interpretive Center on Thursday. A power source, controlled by a nozzle, kept the water flowing at a steady pace. Children gathered around the table, watching the current slowly, but surely, carry bits of sand and sediment farther down the model stream.

“What’s happening there?” asked Bill Thompson, Watershed Project Manager for the Rochester branch of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Watershed Project Manager for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Bill Thompson.

“Erosion,” said a boy in the crowd.

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Thompson then gave the children sticks and rocks to put in the stream’s path to demonstrate how it affected the stream’s flow.

It was all part of a program that Thompson does at venues from Rochester to Mankato to demonstrate how a real stream works, and one of several programs offered during the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center’s Water Festival this week.

“The state has been doing this kind of stuff for quite a while,” Thompson said.

“It helps us raise awareness of stream issues, like stream stability, river flows, water quality, fishing. All of those things can be talked about when looking at the stream table.”

“Kids also get to play in the sandbox, too,” he added with a smile.

Thompson then asked the kids about local streams and rivers, like Rose Creek, Dobbins Creek and the Cedar River.

“Dobbins Creek empties into the Cedar River, and the Cedar River empties into the Mississippi River,” he told the kids. “The Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. With all of these waterways connecting, it’s important how people upstream take care of their rivers and streams.”

Thompson emphasizes the importance of taking care of water systems to the kids.

“I tell kids they’re the future land managers and river keepers,” he said. “Having an understanding of what is happening in the river, be it the Cedar River or Dobbins Creek, is a good thing to know.”

Kids place sticks and stones onto a stream table at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center to see how they affect the flow.
Photos by Michael Stoll/mike.stoll@austindailyherald.com

The nature center’s Water Festival continues on Friday with a 1 p.m. tour of the Austin Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“Kids can learn about where the water goes when they flush it and how it gets cleaned up before reentering our water system,” said Luke Reese, the center’s director. “There is no such thing as away.”

To sign-up for the tour, contact the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. Reese said signing-up is preferred, but participants are welcome to show up at the plant.

The Water Festival will end on Saturday with a service day dedicated to cleaning Dobbins Creek and the Cedar River. Reese said people can help clean as well as monitor water quality and clearly label storm drains that empty directly into the Cedar River.

To sign up to volunteer for Saturday, call or visit the Nature Center. Reese said that if people decide to help on Saturday, they should come to the Nature Center at 8:30 a.m.