Pathway to Water Quality complete this year
Douglas – What started as only an idea in 2009 blossomed into a functional, educational and recreational water quality exhibit on the Wyoming State Fairgrounds that will be complete by August 2013.
The project – the Pathway to Water Quality – evolved from an educational display to a functional display that protects water quality in the North Platte River.
“The Pathway started when Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Xavier Montoya posed the idea based on a project from his experience in Indiana,” says Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank. “Our steering committee started brainstorming and the Pathway is what came out.”
The Pathway to Water Quality serves three purposes: to function as effective drainage for the Wyoming State Fairgrounds; to educate users on water quality; and to provide an additional recreational area on the State Fairgrounds.
“We focused on the use of innovative technologies to show different technology for protecting water quality in a working environment,” comments Frank. “It needed to be functional in a working environment.”
History of the project
Since 2009, all three phases of the Pathway to Water Quality have been completed.
Phase one of the project consisted of permeable pavers in front of the Ag and Natural Resources Pavilion and in the cattle tie-outs. The material, called an eco-grid, was installed beginning in 2011.
The second phase involved a pathway along the North Platte River. Along the pathway, interpretive signage explains different portions of the project.
“The eco-grid captures about 75 percent of the runoff from the State Fairgrounds,” says Frank, “and diverts it to the final phase of the project – the wetland.”
The final stage, which will be completed before the 2013 Wyoming State Fair in August, is the construction of the wetlands.
“The wetland will serve the purpose of capturing runoff while being an educational area,” Frank adds, noting that the final stages of wetlands construction, including the construction of a perimeter fence, boardwalk, patio, fireplace and interpretive signage, which are slated for completion in mid-July.
Without the support of numerous sponsors and committee members, Frank notes that the project wouldn’t have been possible.
“The steering committee has guided the project and the ideas, including the use of innovative technologies, which is a big goal of this project,” explains Frank.
She continues, “We couldn’t do it without our partners, and we couldn’t do it to the magnitude that we are without the huge number of partners that we have.”
In 2013, they added new partners to the project. Partners have been important in providing both funding, ideas and the labor to construct the project.
“There are a number of different entities working on this project, and everyone has pulled together to make it happen,” Frank adds. “The Wyoming Weed and Pest Council has been integral with Russian Olive control. State Forestry and the Urban Forestry program have been important with the trees and the Living Legacy project, and the local conservation district has come to the table to help with the grass plots.”
Frank also remarks that industry members, including Cameco and Encana have been incredible partners, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service have been integral in both engineering and project funding aspects.
Other partners include Nature’s Composites Organic Building Products, Converse County Conservation District, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, the National Conservation Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, Wyoming Community Foundation, Southeast Wyoming RC&D Council, United States Environmental Protection Agency, National Association of Conservation Districts Past Presidents, Converse County Weed and Pest and the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts.
“Another big part of this has been all the people who showed up on the volunteer days, both for the Living Legacy program and the Pathway to Water Quality project,” says Frank.
Grant Stumbough of Casper, who initially spearheaded the project, and Curtis Grandstaff of LaGrange, who has volunteered hundreds of hours, Frank specifically mentions, have been incredibly integral in the success of the project from its inception.
She also remarks that there are hundred of volunteers who have contributed to the success of the project, including the Douglas FFA Chapter and numerous individuals.
“We hope everyone visits the Pathway this year at State Fair,” Frank says, noting that the project encompasses more than just a functional and educational exhibit.
The wetlands area in particular also fills recreational needs of the Wyoming State Fairgrounds and demonstrates state ability to address environmental concerns.
“This was a perfect example of how Wyoming can handle its water quality goals, step up to the plate and do so in a working environment,” Frank emphasizes. “It adds a lot of benefit to the State Fairgrounds, and everyone will be able to use it.”
“Being able to protect the North Platte, combined with public education and better recreation is exciting,” she comments. “The project is looking great, and we are very excited to see the outcome.”