Over the past few months, the Summit Reads program has presented discussions and activities to encourage conversation about its 2013 book selection, “Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis,” by Cynthia Barnett. The program started on a macro level, gradually narrowing its focus, and has now reached the culminating event, the Wading the Water Family Activity, which will take place Sunday in French Creek in Breckenridge.
“Throughout the book, we have looked at a 50,000-foot view and zoomed in on some specific cities. The panel recently brought us very close to home by discussing the Colorado River and water resources in the state of Colorado,” said Dan Schroder, natural resources agent for the local Colorado State University Extension office. “This is another step closer to home.”
The activity, led by Schroder, will investigate the overall health of French Creek. The creek is part of the town of Breckenridge’s municipal water supply, a drainage that leads to Dillon Reservoir, which is a water supply for people on the Front Range, he said.
“We’ll take a look at the overall health of the stream,” Schroder said. “To do that, we’ll focus on some specific components of French Creek. We’ll gather some scientific evidence of the chemical components, the physical attributes and the biological life within the stream.”
By testing each of those three parameters independently, Schroder said, attendees will be able to compile the information to draw a bigger picture of the overall health of the stream.
“This is a close view of a waterway in Summit County, one of these drainages that adds to the overall headwaters of the Colorado River Basin,” he said. “We’ll determine if our backyard is exhibiting healthy stream properties or if there is some cleanup work that still needs to be done.”
Getting your feet wet
Schroder spends the majority of his time in the forest working with fire mitigation and community protection. For him, Wading the Water is a chance to revisit previous work he did investigating waterways with the Keystone Science School. The Science School donated the majority of the kits that will be used during the activity, he said, and the Colorado Water Institute, part of the campus at Colorado State University, donated additional science equipment for the program.
“Forests and rivers and fire are all interconnected,” Schroder said. “I get to do something that I used to do, and I get to be outside, teaching in nature’s classroom.”
As people drive up French Creek, they see that the river was turned upside down by mining and the dredge piles remain, which is not good for the ecosystem, Schroder said. He said the Wading the Water activity is a good way to introduce children to water conservation and teach them about this ecological history because it’s so hands on.
“It’s interdisciplinary,” he said. “We’ll be looking at different educational modes — a little bit of math, a little bit of science, the social perspective with the mining — and turn it into something that’s meaningful for us today. For kids, specifically, they really get it. It’s great for adults, too, because it’s a good reminder of what we already know.”
Connecting with the land
Schroder said it’s important for people to see their waterways firsthand to create a connection with the surrounding environment.
“I think boaters and fisher-people are really connected to the waterways, but many people who do not engage in those recreational pursuits don’t have a firsthand touch with the river,” he said. “We will be putting on waders and be in French Creek interacting with this waterway while doing our experiments.”