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Little Beaver Creek, Groundwater and Trees are Slated to be Topics of Discussion

Posted Apr. 5, 2013

Beaver Creek Wildlife Center - Jim Kerr & Thomas Butch

Little Beaver Creek, groundwater and trees are slated to be topics of discussion during Kent State University at East Liverpool’s Earth Day Environmental Justice Conference. The annual environmental conference is Saturday, April 20 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Main Classroom Building, located at 400 E. Fourth St..

Beaver Creek State Park and the Little Beaver Creek are jewels that provide nature experiences for residents of Columbiana County, and they are also an attraction for people out of the area, providing income for local businesses and restaurants. Currently, the Ohio Legislature  passed legislation that could affect the level of the water in the creek, endangering wildlife in the area and depriving visitors of the experiences in nature that the park provides. The creek, groundwater quality before testing, and the value of an urban forest will be topics of the annual Earth Day Conference.

The conference will begin with a continental breakfast at 8 am. Student essay presentations will begin at 9 a.m., followed with presentations by guest speakers. Trees for planting will be available to those attending the event for as long as the supply lasts. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend. For more information, contact Dr. Patti Swartz, pswartz@kent.edu.

Swartz is accepting student papers for the conference by e-mail at pswartz@kent.edu. Poster presentations may be submitted on the day of the conference. Information about these contests is available at www.col.kent.edu. The Kent State East Liverpool bookstore provides gift certificates for prizes. Featured speakers will include James Kerr, founder and curator of the Little Beaver Creek State Park Wildlife Education Center, and Thomas Butch, Columbiana County park commissioner and founding member of the “Save Little Beaver Creek State Park” interest group. They will discuss issues that impact Beaver Creek State Park and Little Beaver Creek because of increased fracking activity in Columbiana and Mahoning counties. They will discuss concerns about recent laws passed by the Ohio legislature that affect removing water from creeks, like Little Beaver, and how plant and animal species in the ark and in the area may be endangered should the water level drop so far that it would not sustain this life. 

Kline on boat electroshockingIn other counties, companies conducting fracking buy water from local water companies rather than taking water from creeks. Some believe that this could be a simple solution for our area and a part of the cost of doing business that would keep the water in Little Beaver Creek at a sustainable level, protect wildlife, and continue the quality of experiences for park visitors.

Water is also the topic of a second presentation. Elizabeth Kline, an instructor of biology and environmental technologies at Zane State College will discuss water testing that determines groundwater quality prior to fracking. Students in Kline’s classes sampled groundwater in partnership with The Wilds, a founding member of the Conservation Centers for Species Survival and located in Cumberland, Ohio. Students used protocols established by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and analyzed samples according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) methods.  

Cassandra Clevenger and Stephanie Deibel, senior biology students at Kent State University, will discuss examining and cataloging the urban forest on the Kent State main campus.  They will discuss the value of an urban forest and how it can affect water and global warming.  Along with Clevenger and Deibel, 11 other students were involved in this project that uses a newly developed National Forest System computer program called I-Tree.  

Using Mobile Mapper GPS units, the students collected information from 16 acres of urban forest at KSU and the conclusions about the value of the urban forest will be the subject of their presentation. 

Both Butch and Kerr have degrees in biology. Butch worked his entire career at ODNR, primarily with the Department of Mineral Resource Management. Currently, he spends much of his time working in Columbiana County Parks and protecting Little Beaver Creek.  He is active with the Leetonia Sportsman Club Kid’s Day and is a founding member of the “Explore the Outdoors” event held at Beaver Creek State Park each August.

Kerr taught biology at Beaver Local High School before moving to the Columbiana County Educational Center and the Mahoning County Educational Center. He is also a founding member of the “Explore the Outdoors” event and teaches at the Ohio Valley College of Technology. Both Kerr and Butch are advocates for a clean and safe environment for organisms, plants and animals that need the creek to live, and a park with experiences that help the people of the area create bonds with nature.

“As curator of the Wildlife Education Center, Kerr has created an invaluable resource, a center unrivaled in this part of the state,” said Kent State Professor Dr. Patti Swartz, after a visit to the center. “I had the opportunity to see species I had never seen before, an egg collection that is very impressive, and other collections not often brought together in one center.”

Kline said she believes that active, experiential learning grounded in the local community is an excellent way for students to learn. Her students’ classes at Zane State partnered with The Wilds and focused on hydrogeology, not only improving student learning, but also gathering essential data about groundwater before fracking takes place. Kline has a Master of Science degree in environmental science from Pace University.  In addition to her work related to water, she also teaches OSHA Industrial Health and Safety Courses and environmental site assessments. She is a former project manager for environmental site assessments in White Plains, New York, and worked as senior environmental health and safety specialist at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.  

Clevenger and Deibel, along with other members of the group that completed the urban forest assessment, are presenting their findings at national and regional conferences, including the 68th Soil and Water Conservation Society Annual Conference in Reno and the 2013 Ohio Storm Water Conference in Cincinnati.

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