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Crooked River - 50 years of Progress

Cuyahoga County students are invited to add their voice to the Crooked River Conversations with their submissions to the Cuyahoga SWCD 2019 Poster Contest. The theme for this contest for students in grades K-12 is Crooked River – 50 years of progress.

The Cuyahoga River is also known as the “crooked river” because of the way it winds back on itself repeatedly and also because it ends its 100 mile journey not far from where it begins. Shaped like a jawbone, the Cuyahoga claimed the attention of our nation in 1969 when one of the fires on the river was featured in a popular issue of a national magazine. This was not really unusual for rivers in industrial areas of our country in the middle of the 20th century. Cleveland became the poster child for water quality concerns. Fortunately, we realized that our rivers’ capacity to dilute industrial wastes was being overburdened and we made changes to monitor and restrict polluted discharges. This led to great improvements of water quality in the US.

After polluted discharges were eliminated or reduced through rules and permits, we still had pollution in the water from sources that were difficult or impossible to track. This “non-point source pollution” (NPS) moved across the land with stormwater and ended up in our water. Animal waste, lawn and farm chemicals, road salt, sediment, trash and other pollutants enter our waterways directly or through storm drains that dump out – untreated - into our streams, rivers and lakes. Good personal behaviors can reduce these NPS pollutants – we all play a role.

Today’s students were born into a society where rules are in place to protect our waters and rivers that “burn” are hopefully a thing of the past in the US. Unfortunately, history forgotten is often repeated. As we celebrate 50 years of progress, we want students to understand and reflect on the past while insuring a clean water future. By researching this topic then using art to answer two questions: 1) “What would the Cuyahoga River look like if we hadn’t made rules and cleaned it up?” and 2) “What will it look like in the future if we work even harder to care for it?” we hope students will appreciate the role we all play in protecting our natural resources.

Teachers and other educators should register their class or youth group for the poster contest by March 1st. Registration, rules and resource suggestions are available here.

If you have questions about the contest or other student programs, please contact us.

Blog author: Jacki Zevenbergen, Stormwater Education Program Manager

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