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The Watershed Committee of the Ozarks is developing the Valley Water Mill site and turning it into an educational resource for the community. As our environment and climate change, advocates say education is key to adapting and preventing further problems. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.
This past school year, a number of students made a trip to Valley Water Mill, located on the northern edge of Springfield. The 100-acre property consists of a wetlands area, lake, and spring-fed stream. It's public land and the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks is developing the site. There are educational stations and work is underway on a trail to connect a fishing pier boardwalk to the South Dry Sac Greenway. The final addition to the site will be a multi-million dollar Watershed Center, a building where there will be more educational opportunities for students and the public. These projects highlight the importance of educating people about how to protect the environment from the effects of climate change and pollution. On my recent trip to Valley Water Mill, I took a walk on the fishing pier...a structure that will be a gathering spot for visiting groups of students. Matt Keener is operations manager with the Watershed Committee.
Matt says he hopes to bring underprivileged and underserved youth into nature. "Most people who are into the outdoors have someone who mentored them and it seems that first took place at a fishing pond so we're trying to get them hooked here at the fishing piers. It teaches them to appreciate nature. They get to touch it and feel it and appreciate things they might see on TV or hear their grandparents talk about, things they got to do when they were younger, those opportunities they may have had when they were younger that so many kids today aren't getting to explore."
And there's plenty for students to explore at Valley Water Mill, including re-developed wetlands. Our guide for this part of the trip is Mike Kromrey, education outreach coordinator for the Watershed Committee.
Mike says the wetland area is a habitat they've re-engineered. "When we bring school kids out here, I just try to help them see nature in a fuller light, telling them wetlands are great for water quality because they filter the water. They usually see frogs and tangible things that they can get excited about. We're trying to get kids excited about nature. You have to help people understand something before you ask them to protect or preserve it. These days, kids are disconnected from nature. We're losing our connection to water resources and where our food comes from. This is place where we can show kids what nature's all about.
From the wetlands area, we walk over a wooden bridge and along a path with tall weeds on both sides.
Mike Kromrey: "We're at a junction in the trail where we can start to see the spring branch. Valley Water Mill lake gets between 10 and 20 millions gallons a day of ground water so we have a fresh water spring, a spring that pumps a lot of this ground water into the lake. We're coming up on the spring. This is straight from the earth."
Shelton: When it comes to climate change, how does what you're teaching kids relate to climate change?
Mike Kromrey: What we're trying to do at the Watershed Center is show people how to use water resources better, show people how to be wiser with energy use and that's all tied together, getting people to appreciate nature and getting them to realize that what we do in our daily lives has a global impact. Research shows us that climates out west are shifting. We don't know how climate change might affect us in the Ozarks but you're starting to see water resource issues travel eastward. As places in our country become dryer, protecting our water resources is the prudent thing to do."
And that's just one lesson students learn when they visit Valley Water Mill. Join us this afternoon as we continue our discussion about the important role of education in protecting the environment and addressing climate change.