CYPRESS – A champion for safe, clean and accessible rivers, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon gave the keynote address today at a dedication ceremony for the Section 8 Boardwalk at the Cache River State Natural Area. The boardwalk was closed following damage from a 2008 flood.
A group of junior high school students, known as the Wetland Warriors, at Creal Springs School used $15,000 of the $20,000 they received last year from the Disney Planet Challenge, a nationwide science competition, to help rebuild the boardwalk. Additional funding for the project came from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Friends of the Cache River Wetlands and the Southern Illinois Audubon Society.
“I applaud the Creal Springs School students’ commitment to protection and restoration of the Cache River Wetlands and to the many others who assisted in this collaborative project,” said Simon. “This boardwalk makes it possible for Illinois citizens young and old to enjoy some of our state’s wonderful natural resources.”
Simon issued a proclamation last year that declared July 12 to be Creal Springs School Day. Simon presented the proclamation to the Wetland Warriors at a meeting of the Mississippi River Coordinating Council, which she chairs. The council was established in 2010 and promotes the environmental and economic health of the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
The boardwalk is located in the Section 8 Woods Nature Preserve which is a floodplain forest that features large bald cypress and provides a safe haven for a variety of birds, frogs and swamp fish. The boardwalk, located at the junction of IL Rt. 37 and the Cache River, extends from a parking area into the forested swamp.
The Creal Springs students won the Disney Planet Challenge for their projects in the Cache River Basin including transplanting vegetation, performing trail maintenance, determining water quality through sample collection, assembling educational materials for teachers and creating a website about their research.
Since winning the science competition the students have received the 2011 Illinois Audubon Society’s Youth Conservationist Award and their teacher, Fran Wachter, was awarded a 2011 Exxon Mobil Outstanding Illinois Teachers of Science award by the Illinois Science Teachers Association. The students are using the remaining money from the Disney Planet Challenge to build a wildlife viewing blind and purchase radio transmitters for species research.
Simon was joined at the dedication by IDNR Director Marc Miller, Friends of the Cache River Watershed board member Charlie Proctor, and members of the Wetland Warriors. The ceremony was hosted by Friends of the Cache River Watershed.
To view a photo of the event, please click here.