The news you didn’t hear

Climbing into the car, my hand reached out lightning fast and changed the station. “What was that?” my son called out from the back seat.

“Oh nothing,” I responded, “just the news.”

“What’s the news?” he asked, in predictable fashion.

Hoping to dodge a more lengthy conversation, I explained, “Well, there are people who report about the important things happening in the world each day and you can listen to the news and find out what’s going on.”

“Like what? What’s happening in the world?” he queried.

“Oh, you know…well…I mean…if there were a war they would report on that during the news,” I spoke reluctantly.

“And what else?”

Sighing, I continued, “Or…well… if there had happened to be an election today, they would tell us who won.”

“And what else?” Charlie asked again as I stared hard at the rain on the road, trying desperately to think of anything in the day’s news I would want to talk about with a preschooler. Stumped, I sat silent. Charlie tried again, “Do they tell you who died today?” With a sigh, I continued to glare at the road.

I’m not a journalist or a reporter, just an environmental educator working for a local government partnership. I write about water issues and projects, most of which are too small in scale to ever grab the headlines of the evening news. Though local in nature, these topics are not unimportant. Our water resources – the groundwater we drink, as well as the wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams that cover our landscape – are vital to our good health and quality of life. Newsworthiness is in the eye of the beholder.

With my son Charlie’s question in mind, I thought of a few small but important happenings, right here in the St. Croix Valley. You’ll probably never hear these stories on the nightly news, but then again, you probably won’t mind talking about them with your family during dinner tonight. Maybe we should all share more stories like these:

  • A boater caught in action - doing the right thing.
    A boater caught in action – doing the right thing.

    Inspections and education made a difference in the spread of aquatic invasive species. The Washington Conservation District hired two watercraft inspectors to monitor 17 public boat launches in Washington County this past summer. The inspectors talked to boaters about the importance of removing drain plugs and cleaning their boats and trailers in order to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil. In the course of 31 inspections conducted on seven different days at Square Lake Park, not one single violation was discovered! In fact, of the 579 inspections performed across the county on incoming watercraft, only nine violations were observed – a result much lower than the statewide trend. All nine violations were boats or trailers that had plants attached and, in each case, the plants were successfully removed by hand before the boats entered the water.

  • Newly planted raingarden at Kiwanis Camp
    Newly planted raingarden at Kiwanis Camp

    A new project at the Kiwanis Scout Camp in Marine on St. Croix will help make the river cleaner. The Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District worked with the Kiwanis Camp to capture stormwater runoff and repair erosion problems by building a large raingarden near the main building, stabilizing shoreline along the river with brush bundles, limestone steppers, and native plants, and creating a vegetated swale with rock to stabilize a crumbling boat access drive. Washington Conservation District helped to design the project and provided funding through a grant from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. In its entirety, the project will keep almost ten pounds of phosphorus out of the St. Croix River each year – enough to prevent 5000 pounds of algae from growing!

  • Communities in the St. Croix Valley are connecting through art and nature. Three weeks ago a group of artists, scientists and community leaders from across the St. Croix Valley gathered at the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson as part of a new initiative known as Navigate, led by ArtReach St. Croix and Arts Midwest. Over the course of five retreats, the group will explore common goals and develop a strategic plan for how to work collaboratively to support arts, protect and improve nature, and enhance life in the St. Croix Valley. This innovative project is an example of collaboration at its best.

And that is the news of the day that you didn’t hear.