by Christy Thomas, Beaver Creek Reserve Writing Intern
The second annual Celebrate the Chippewa River at Family Day event will be taking place June 30 in Phoenix Park.
Last year’s event was a hit and brought together people of all ages in interactive outdoor activities. The entire point at the confluence in Phoenix Park was covered in exhibits and activities aimed at environmental education. Kids played games, made art projects, and learned from informational booths. Others learned to fish from the bank and took guided kayak, canoe, and bike tours that left from the point throughout the day. A major highlight was fish “shocking” performed by DNR staff, allowing viewers to get up close with the river’s fish, including at least three rare species.
“People should know just how special it is to have a high quality, clean river flowing through the cities of Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire,” says Ken Schreiber, a planning committee member and retired DNR water quality specialist. The Chippewa River is a prominent part of our community, flowing past our homes, places of work, and recreational areas, but it can be easy to take it for granted. The idea of Celebrate the Chippewa River at Family Day is an extension of our Celebrate the Chippewa River Conference held every fall in Davies Center at UWEC, and we hope this event will allow people to understand more fully the value of our beloved Chippewa.
In addition to last year’s activities, new this year at Family Day will be tours of the prairie plantings in Phoenix Park education attendees about the landscape surrounding the river. “It is imperative that we remember to not just focus on the river but to focus on all the parts that help to make up that river. The surrounding habitat is a key feature to learn about, discuss, and pay attention to,” explains Jeanette Kelly, Citizen Science Director at Beaver Creek Reserve. The planning committee is also hoping to increase the number of people out on the water in canoes and kayaks, since getting out on the river is the best way to get to know it.
This event is funded by a grant through Xcel Energy called the Chippewa River Natural Resource Fund. This fund has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to projects related to environmental study and education in the Chippewa Valley since it was created in 2001 during the dam relicensing process. “The NRF was one of the most important things to come out of relicensing,” says Matt Miller, an Xcel Energy employee who works to ensure compliance with the federal licenses. He explained the value this money has provided in ensuring important environmental requirements are met.
Ultimately, this Family Day event is hoping to do what its name implies—celebrate this wonderful river flowing through our backyards in unique and exciting ways while also discovering how to preserve this irreplaceable feature in our community. Planning committee member and DNR Water Resource Specialist Jodi Lepsch urges us to “remain vigilant in our protection of the river because there are always threats lurking like aquatic invasive species and non-point source pollution.” We need to be proactive in our treatment of the river so it continues to be an asset.
“Today, due to focused efforts to clean up the river and shoreline, the river is an incredible resource for recreation, viewing, and river events,” says Dan Zerr, planning committee member and UW-Extension Natural Resource Educator. “Everyone needs to realize that we are all responsible for doing whatever we can to take care of these precious resources.”
Come join us in Phoenix Park on June 30th for a fun day learning more about the Chippewa River and how you can be involved in its life!