Spreading Joy Through Volunteer Monitoring

March 20, 2018

Over the past 10 years, the St. Joseph County Conservation District (SJCCD) has participated in several water quality projects funded by MiCorps grants. There is no telling just how important these grants have been to the SJCCD, but one thing is for sure, without them we would never have been able to accomplish as much as we have in this area. The relationships established with the community and with county officials have propelled the District in the right direction: full speed ahead.

St. Joseph River Cleanup Crews from Abbott Nutrition spent an entire day cleaning eight miles of the Portage River.

The initial grant the SJCCD received was from the Volunteer River, Stream, and Creek Cleanup Program (a sister program to MiCorps). With the acceptance of this grant, we were able to begin to establish a volunteer base with the very first group consisting of only 4 participants. Year after year we continued our clean-up efforts on over 150 miles of St. Joseph County rivers and streams all while growing the District’s volunteer base. We now have a volunteer group of over 120 individuals from local businesses, schools, and the community itself.

With a robust and unique volunteer base now established, the SJCCD has since taken on additional MiCorps grants in the years that followed that initial grant. Among these grants was the Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program (VSMP) Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Survey grant in which volunteers collect macroinvertebrates to determine the water quality of the river or stream. The District’s younger volunteers, in particular, look forward to catching bugs in the water of the local rivers and streams each spring and fall.

Members of the St. Joseph Bug Brigade examine their “finds” after collecting macroinvertebrates in a nearby stream.

From a personal perspective of Carolyn and Shaun Grace, the “mother/son duo” of the SJCCD, we try to communicate an undoubtable passion for the community’s waterways in all that we do. We attempt to bring this energy into each of our volunteer events to educate and spread the joy that can be derived from building community through outreach and good ol’ fashion fun on the water. As anyone who knows us will say, there is no stopping us as we continue to reach more and more members of the community in hopes of impacting their little slice of environment in the best way we know how… enthusiastically!

This enthusiasm has been directly carried over into the SJCCD’s newest MiCorps grant, the Road-Stream Crossing Inventory grant. Upon receiving this grant in 2017, we have now successfully begun establishing a strong working relationship with both the St. Joseph County Road Commission and the St. Joseph County Drain Commission. This, in turn, has allowed us to continue to increase the impact of these efforts on improving water quality. Road-stream crossings are an essential part of every community’s infrastructure and ensuring that all culverts are comprehensively inventoried to assure they are properly sized and positioned allows for both the road commission and drain commission to make informed decisions and prioritize the county’s waterways for improvements or repairs.

The SJCCD recently expanded its monitoring toolkit to include road/stream crossing inventories with its SJC Road Warriors.

The SJCCD will continue its goals of promoting environmental awareness and volunteer events and looks forward to expanding its mission with the help of the MiCorps grants. We are beyond thankful for the chance to make whatever positive difference we can as we grow our efforts and our overall impact. If there is ever any doubt in the intentions of the SJCCD, just ask any of the District’s employees or board members and it becomes quite clear; we love the community and the environment and are happy to do what we can to help out!

To learn more about the SJCCD, please visit our website or contact us at (269) 467-6336 ext. 5.

Posted By: Carolyn and Shaun Grace, St. Joseph County Conservation District

The St. Joseph County Conservation District is currently supported, in part, by a 2017 Road-Stream Crossing Inventory grant under the MiCorps Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program (VSMP). They also received a 2016 VSMP Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Survey grant and a 2015 start-up grant to develop their macroinvertebrate monitoring program.

Quietly scanning Prairie River for more trash to add to the dumpster collection.