A Celebration of Conservation: Conewago Darter 5k Run/Walk and Community Field Day Unite Community for Water Quality and Restoration
Community members, conservationists, and runners gather to increase awareness and involvement with ongoing conservation efforts at the Conewago Watershed
On April 2nd, all welcomed the cool spring weather at the first Conewago Darter 5 Run/Walk and Community Field Day. Members of the community gathered at the Conewago Recreational Trail to enjoy a day filled with fun activities for the whole family.
The event drew together community members, conservationists, and runners alike to increase their awareness and involvement with ongoing conservation efforts at the Conewago Watershed. Spanning into Lancaster County, the Conewago Creek was the perfect place for a 5k Darter that celebrated the innovative work of community partners and citizens implementing and promoting water quality projects for both Mt Joy and Londonderry Townships, like the Conewago Creek Restoration Project that was funded and facilitated by Lancaster Clean Water Partners (the Partners), Lancaster ARPA, Growing Greener, NFWF, Dauphin County CAP, Water Resource Enhancement Program (WREP).
An MS4 Environmental Specialist, from the Partners’ affiliate Londonderry Township, and board member for the local Tri County Conewago Creek Association, Monique Dykman, utilized the 5k community event to bring out new faces and connect community members to local clean water resources and clean water projects. Starting at the Old Trolley Linn Park, the participants ran and walked a 5k on the Conewago Recreation Trail. In addition, the race ended with a fun field day, where 14 conservation partners promoted their work with interactive booths. “Overall, the intention of this event is to highlight the restoration work of our partners in the Conewago Watershed, and beyond, and connect participants to local organizations and project opportunities. The event location highlighted a large project being implemented to meet Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System requirements for many communities .”
Conewago Creek Restoration Project is well-known for its collaborative watershed-based approach to reducing local flooding and improve local water quality. Recognized for its exceptional collaborative accomplishments, the Dauphin County Premier Projects, “Growing Within Our Environment” project awarded the project for its stream restoration plan. The watershed’s restoration plans were only made possible because of its cross-sector community support that will continue to be an integral component of the conservation efforts.
Due to the large scope of work, the Conewago Stream Restoration project was divided into three phases. Phase two, which is entirely on Lancaster County land and was just completed, will not only improve water quality but also enhance the natural habitat for wildlife. This portion of the initiative redeveloped 15 acres of wetlands to increase flood storage capacity and native meadows. The multi-municipal stream restoration project involved several proven best practices for stream restoration. This has and will continue to include legacy sediment removal, floodplain reconnection, and wetland creation that will lead to significant improvements in water quality and enhance the ecosystem’s resiliency.
As with all monumental projects, initiatives like the Conewago Stream Restoration project are only made possible with the support of the partners and leaders who are instrumental in the design and implementation. Other partners included: Dauphin County, Mt. Joy Township, Lancaster County, The Conewago Creek Initiative, Greening the Lower Susquehanna, Penn State University Agriculture & Environment Center, The Dauphin County Conservation District, and The Lancaster County Conservation District
The last phase of the project will be spring and summer plantings that will help with soil erosion, water quality, and wildlife. There are many ways to get involved within your community with water quality projects and activities for all. Visit the Lancaster County Conservation District event web page to directly link to active clean water partners in Lancaster County.
“Getting habitat on the ground starts with community interest,” quoted an anonymous participant. “The Darter provided the stage for professionals to showcase their work. It also gave people a front-row seat to ongoing conservation efforts and ways for them to engage. Not only did this event spark wonder and inspiration, but also hope for our natural resources. Our organization will definitely be back at the next Darter!”
*This project is funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under an assistance agreement with the PA DEP. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Environmental Protection.
Authored by Elvira Felix, Copyedited by: Monique Dykman, Photo Credit: Monique Dykman