June 20 • 04:28 PM

A 'Belle' of a project

Imlay Parks & Rec, sixth-graders team up with 7 Ponds staff to monitor Belle River

Jacob Cohoon displays the crayfish he found in the Belle River, while Tyler Livingston records the details. Looking on are fellow students Samantha Lange, Angelica Chapa and John Rivard. photo by Tom Wearing.

April 21, 2010
IMLAY CITY — Protecting the quality of local streams and waterways ranks high on the priority list of the staff at Dryden's Seven Ponds Nature Center.

Seven Ponds naturalists Lois Rheaume, Nancy Kautz, Layne Brown and Carrie Spencer took the lead this week in an environmental study of the Belle River; specifically the portion that runs through Imlay City's Lions Park.

The collaborative study required a partnership that included the nature center, Imlay City Parks & Recreation Commission and sixth-grade science students at the Imlay City Middle School.

For portions of three days (April 13-15), sixth-graders conducted on-site inspections, samplings and data acquisition at Lions Park.

The results were "pleasantly surprising" to Rheaume, who noted that the river's water quality and presence of living organisms was unexpectedly high.

"It's in really good condition," said Rheaume. "The kids are discovering a wide diversity of organisms living in the stream, and that's very good news.

"This part of the river can be considered a 'priority one' stream because of its pristine condition," said Rheaume. "That means it's crucial that it needs to be protected."

She said the river's condition in and around Lions Park has improved significantly during the past year, when the Parks & Rec board requested and city agreed to stop mowing along the river's edge.

"This is a unique watershed," said Rheaume. "Now that they've stopped mowing and allowed the natural growth, we can already see the clarity of the water."

While Rheaume returned to her group of students, Nancy Kautz revealed the results of another group of students' pH tests, designed to assess the river's acidity and alkaline levels.

"The tests registered a neutral reading," Kautz told the sixth graders, "which is very good. That means the river is healthy."

Middle School Principal Erik Mason lauded the partnership for providing students a chance to connect with their natural surroundings, while gaining a greater appreciation for the planet's fragile eco-system.

"This project is a great way for students to experience the ecological habitat that is right in their own back yard," said Mason. "It now becomes knowledge they can share with their friends and families. The Seven Ponds staff has been awesome to work with. We hope to collaborate with them again in the future."

Sixth-grader Chase Fackler said young people can play a role in ensuring that our waterways and natural habitat thrive in the future.

After accidentally landing a frog in his "dipping" net, the 12-year-old admired his find before releasing it to its natural environment.

"I like hunting for frogs," said the youngster. "I think it's important that we learn about nature and how to protect it.

"I want to help keep the Belle River clean," said Fackler. "Belle means beautiful in French. We should try to keep the river that way."

Public meeting on river

On Wed., May 19, the Imlay City Parks & Recreation Commission will host a public information meeting at 7 p.m. at the city hall to promote awareness of the the Belle River restoration project that began last year.

Representatives from Huron Consultants will be in attendance to discuss potential flooding issues and plans for a river cleanup project.

The Belle River's total length extends from Long Lake in Lapeer County, east to Marine City in St. Clair County.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.
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