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Oak Creek Ambassadors, Oak Creek Cleanup, and middle school Education program funded

Sedona AZ (February 10, 2014) – The Oak Creek Watershed Council (OCWC) has been awarded $165,988 in direct funding by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) water quality improvement grant program through the federal Clean Water Act, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and is intended to address continued polluted runoff from multiple sources in the Oak Creek corridor.  From its headwaters to the confluence of the Verde River, areas of Oak Creek are impacted by Escherichia coli (E. coli) which is an indicator of fecal coliform contamination. 

20140210_Friend-of-Oak-Creek-Cleanup“We always want Oak Creek visitors to enjoy its pristine environment” said Barry Allan, CEO, “but it is imperative they recreate responsibly and take their trash and used diapers with them.  The Creek area is a fragile environment and must also not be used as a bathroom. This new grant will enable us to continue providing education and outreach on these issues.”   

The previously successful Oak Creek Ambassador program will continue to help with E.coli load reduction in Oak Creek. Trained by the US Forest service, Ambassadors will again pair off into teams to patrol the Oak Creek corridor this summer, providing education about pollution control and outdoor ethics to residents as well as visitors.

The Oak Creek Ambassadors, combined with the efforts of Friends of Oak Creek, collected and disposed of nearly 2 tons of trash, over 85 pounds of feces and 128 diapers in the Oak Creek corridor from July 4th through Labor Day weekend, last year. The Oak Creek Ambassadors also met with 11,000 visitors and gave over 850 hours of watershed education including outdoor ethics and potential health issues in Oak Creek. 

Attaining grants and offering public environmental programs requires the Council to constantly seek sustainable funding sources. “Volunteers’ time, cash and in-kind donations are vital to our grant efforts” said Allan.  “These donations count as matching funds to offset the award. Many people do not realize that grants require us to raise at least a 40 percent match, otherwise we would not be able to continue with our efforts to protect the integrity of Oak Creek. In a nutshell, the health of Oak Creek depends on the generosity of those who love it, and we are always appreciative of any kind of donation.”

Additionally, this grant will maintain another year of water quality education for local middle schools in the area.  It builds on the previous ADEQ grant in which students formulate their own watershed improvement ideas based on data collected from the Oak Creek Watershed Improvement Plan (OCWIP).  Students also participate in a field trip to Slide Rock State Park where they learn to sample water quality and pick up litter to reinforce in-class, water quality curriculum about their watershed.

“The recipients of Oak Creek’s legacy are presently in our schools being taught how fragile our environment is and how to be good stewards in the future” said Marie McCormick, Associate Director, Operations. “Young people will be the decision makers of tomorrow and will inherit current water issues.  It is a long-term investment for our Council, but watershed education has no age boundaries and we must offer everybody the opportunity to learn how to recreate responsibly.”

The Council was recognized recently by Keep Sedona Beautiful (KSB) when it received the 2013 “Award of Excellence” for Sustainable, Maintainable efforts in watershed stewardship of Oak Creek.  KSB noted projects such as the Oak Creek Ambassadors, Friends of Oak Creek, watershed education and the installation of 20 pet waste stations on private properties. 

OCWC serves as a full-service watershed management organization offering assistance and expertise to the community on all facets of water issues including water quality, quantity, and conservation; watershed restoration; and resulting social, economic and environmental impacts on the watershed community. 

For information about how residents and visitors can learn more about the stewardship of Oak Creek, and review the Oak Creek Watershed Improvement Plan (OCWIP), please visit http://www.oakcreekwatershed.org  

The Oak Creek Watershed Council also sponsors a second website that  focuses on Oak Creek Canyon at http://www.oakcreekcanyonaz.org 

The Oak Creek Watershed Council is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) corporation, and is dedicated to maintaining a standard of excellence for watershed stewardship, as well as preserving the integrity of Oak Creek, and its tributaries.