my information

--- Issued May 14, 2009

In the not-too-distant future, McDannell Run, the stream that runs through the John E. Horan Garden Apartments site, may be hospitable to fish and fishing, thanks to the young HACE residents of that neighborhood who have been acting as caretakers of the stream as part of Earth Force.

Pat Lupo, OSB, program director for the Lake Erie-Allegheny Earth Force, said that HACE youngsters have been working to bring the stream back to life over the past several years. That work may be paying off.

Mayflies, Crayfish, and Water Penny Beetle Larvae were all found in the stream last year. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, as well as institutions such as the University of Arkansas, these macro invertebrates are all biological indicators of good watershed and stream health: Crayfish cannot live in polluted water; water penny beetle larvae are found only in fast-running, clean streams; Mayfly nymphs, which are preyed upon by fish and are considered to be an important part of the food chain, are an indicator of clean water.

If McDannell Run is now a clean stream, as seems to be indicated by its small inhabitants, can larger inhabitants – such as fish – be far behind? Just as Cascade Creek was brought back to life by the Sons of Lake Erie and other Environmental groups -- and stocked with fish in the Frontier area -- can public housing children repeat the same success story at McDannell Run behind the former Franklin Terrace public housing “project?”

Sister Pat is cautiously optimistic.

“We have been working to bring the stream back to life, and we have found Crayfish, Mayflies, and water penny or two, but not in any large quantities. We need to do more assessment this summer before we can make a determination of the stream’s water quality and its ability to sustain fish.”

She said that would be done this summer with the help of aquatic biologists.
Still -- however many or few -- “biological indicators of good watershed health” are in the stream this spring.

And no wonder. For the past four or five years, Sister Pat and Earth Force have made the watershed at McDannell Run the focus of their work with the young residents of the Garden Apartments. “It’s a showcase for the folks who live there; we want to make sure that the residents there know that everything they do impacts the water quality of the stream,” said Sister Pat.

A stream cleanup was a big part of that. Earth Force kids have pulled from the stream car tires, old carpeting, furniture, rusted grocery carts and bicycles. Earth Force kids from the Garden Apartments have also been planting blueberry bushes and native plants along the stream bank to improve water quality by halting bank erosion. They’ve planted “rain gardens” between the Garden Apartments driveway and the stream to absorb and filter runoff from pavement that is contaminated with everything from motor oil to transmission fluids. The plantings also stop contaminants from roofs as well as trash such as stray candy wrappers and cans.

But respect for, and appreciation of the Earth, does not stop at the water’s edge for HACE Earth Force kids. Also in 2008, they met with gardeners to learn about gardens and planted raised garden beds, then watched their gardens grow and harvested from the gardens throughout the summer. “We think it’s important for young people to be involved in their community and with the environment,” said Sister Pat. “We want to encourage community action and problem solving so students can initiate environmental change in their community and neighborhood.