Mahoning Riverfest Celebrates Conservation Efforts

Published: Sun, June 8, 2014 @ 12:10 a.m.By Sean Barronnews@vindy.comYOUNGSTOWN   It’s easy to not consider the short- and long-term impacts of lawn fertilizers that many people apply in the quest for a solid-green yard free of weeds. Ron Kichton will tell you, however, that even though such chemicals may lead to a pristine lawn, they come with a high environmental price.  “Rain washes off the excess. No matter where you are, pollution will impact somebody,” said Kichton, Vice President of Friends of the Mahoning River, which hosted Saturday’s Riverfest 2014 at the B&O Station Banquet Center, 530 Mahoning Ave.  The gathering, in its third year, brought together the Mahoning Soil and Water Conservation District, Mill Creek MetroParks, the Sierra Club, the Alliance for Watershed Action & Resource Education and other environmental and conservation groups to highlight the Mahoning River. The focus also was on environmentally friendly lifestyle practices and choices.  The Riverfest also was in conjunction with the annual Artists of the Rustbelt’s Summer Market, which continues from noon to 5 p.m. today at the B&O. Several attendees gathered around a three-dimensional river table containing wheat seed, grass, sand and a stream to watch Kichton conduct demonstrations on how erosion and pollution affect bodies of water.He showed, for example, that grass or shrubbery planted parallel to a river will lead to slower erosion than if they’re planted perpendicular because more foliage will be available to absorb runoff rainfall before it reaches the shore.  Kichton noted that many lawn pesticides and chemicals wash into storm basins and end up in watersheds before emptying into Meander Reservoir, the Mahoning River and other large water sources.

Covering much of Mahoning County and small portions of Trumbull and Columbiana counties are the Meander Creek, Mill Creek and Yellow Creek watersheds.  A display from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency showed how certain macro-invertebrates, salamanders and fish can determine water quality. For example, carp tend to better tolerate some types of pollution that northern hog sucker fish, so an abundance of one type of fish can tell scientists a lot about the water.  Land conservation and acquisition are the two main goals of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which has protected about 38,000 acres and more than 500 pieces of property in 15 northern and Northeast Ohio counties, noted Alex Czayka, the WRLC’s eastern associate field director.“We protect properties through conservation, easements and land acquisition to prevent the properties from being subdivided or developed,” he explained. The agency also maintains, restores and preserves clean water, farmland, wildlife and wetlands areas and parks, Czayka continued, adding that agriculture is a $90 billion-per-year industry in Ohio.

Also on hand was Grow Youngstown’s Farm to You organization, which offered a variety of fresh produce and vegetables.“We provide weekly shares of produce to our members,” of between 100 and 150, said Gina DeCarlo, Grow Youngstown’s manager.DeCarlo noted that the Farm to You also supports local farms within a 30-mile radius of Youngstown and Warren, and promotes healthful eating habits.The fest’s other offerings included canoe rides on the Mahoning River, courtesy of Trumbull Canoe Trails, produce and organic seeds for sale and face-painting, clowns and games for children. In addition, members of Frack Free Mahoning Valley showed videos and distributed information on what they say are the dangers of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which is a process using millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals at very high pressure to unlock oil and gas deep beneath the Earth’s surface.