Coalition course: Sandusky River group moves annual powwow to June so more might attend; canoe float, other activities planned

Encouraging a people-oriented approach to Sandusky River water quality is one of the goals of the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition. To that end, the organization is switching its annual meeting to June 30 this year at the Sandusky River Coon Hunters lodge and grounds on the river.

Jakob Boehler, watershed coordinator, said the annual meeting in past years has taken place in the winter. But this year, the coalition’s steering committee is planning a get-together to call attention to the river, its benefits to the community, ways people can help it remain healthy and how people can enjoy the river.

“We want to help the group grow,” he said.

Current coalition members include business people, agricultural producers, soil and water groups, other conservation groups and similar people.

He said those people are great and important, but the coalition would like to expand its membership with families, fishermen, paddlers and other people who enjoy the river or are interested in the river as a water source and a means of recreation.

“Anybody in the community who is interested in protecting and enhancing the river,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to meet like-minded people.”

The day is to begin with the annual business meeting at 10 a.m.

“That’s mainly for current members or people who are planning to become members,” he said. “You can sign up at the door to become members if you’d like to.”

Following the business meeting, Boehler said activities of interest to families and individuals are planned.

Children can try their hand at shooting a bow and arrow at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ archery trailer.

Another activity is to be a water quality demonstration where workers at Heidelberg’s National Center for Water Quality Research show how they take water samples. The samples are used to track data on water quality and are added to the lab’s longtime database of information.

In another sort of water quality demonstration, Christina Kuchle, manager of the state’s Scenic Rivers program in northwest Ohio, is to lead a stream quality monitoring session or two. During these studies, volunteers collect macroinvertebrates (mainly larval insects) to determine the quality of the water. Different species of larvae require good water quality, while some can survive in lesser-quality water. Data from a series of SQM studies also help determine the overall quality of the river.

Boehler said the coalition is to sell 50/50 raffle tickets as a fundraiser and is seeking donations of items that can be raffled or auctioned or used for another form of fundraiser. T-shirts also are to be for sale.

Food is to be available.

Partner booths are to be set up so people can learn about other organizations related to the river.

“That’s going to all be happening basically whenever the organization stuff is over at 10:30 or 11,” he said.

A joint booth of Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the Sandusky River watershed is to provide water-related children’s activities and information about actions being taken to protect the river and, in turn, Lake Erie from pollutants.

Seneca County Park District is to have a booth, and Boehler said he hopes other park districts also will take part.

Scenic Rivers is to have a booth in addition to the SQM demonstrations.

Boehler said he hopes conservation groups in the watershed also will be there.

The event is to feature a 1 p.m. canoe float for people who register in advance, he said. The coalition is to use canoes from the Scenic Rivers program and seating is limited to 16 people.

“There’s the potential to add another float before or after, if there’s enough interest,” he said.

To register, email jboehler@heidelberg.edu.

Anyone with their own canoes or kayaks are welcome to take part in the float.

He said float will be starting and ending at the same point — the boat ramp on the Coon Hunters property — by traveling upstream and then turning around to finish the trip downstream.

Boehler said part of the event will be happening in and around the Coon Hunters’ lodge and other parts will be going on down the hill in the area near the river.

In case of rain, he said activities will be moved inside the lodge.

Inside the lodge, he said, a film called “Call of the Scenic River: An Ohio Journey” is to be playing on a continuous loop. The film, created by Ohio filmmaker Tom Mayor and Ohio cinematographers Mike King and Adam White, is the story of Ohio’s waterways. It captures the natural beauty of the rivers, the historical perspective of water quality and the modern conditions affecting watershed ecosystems.

Boehler said the coalition hopes to also offer the film for viewing another time this summer at The Ritz Theatre or at Heidelberg.

Coalition members also plan to get the word out about other summer plans.

“Our aim right now is to increase membership,” Boehler said.

But other events are in the planning stages.

“We have a land use and resource management committee,” he said. “They’re going to be hosting some workshops for local farmers.”

The workshops in late August or early September are to focus on providing farmers with ways of sharing the actions they’re taking to help protect the river and Lake Erie. It will include a panel of SWCD staff members and a representative from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency talking about regulatory questions farmers may have as well as information for farmers about regulations already in place for wastewater treatment facilities.

“The farmers are out there making a difference and protecting the water as well,” he said.

Boehler said the coalition is planning a Clean Sweep river clean-up day in the latter part of August.

“Look for a date to be announced,” he said.

The Clean Sweep was an annual tradition for many years, but they were put on hold about five years ago.

“We’re going to get out there and do one again,” he said.

Boehler encourages any groups that would like to take part in the day to contact him at  jboehler@heidelberg.edu.

“We welcome any groups that would make the day even more unique and interesting,” he said.