Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

May 7, 2014

Illinois River fans raise awareness with festival

TAHLEQUAH — Raising awareness about the impact of the Illinois River on the local community, and educating the public on how to care for the environment, were the driving forces behind Sunday’s Illinois River Heritage Festival.

The Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission and Save the Illinois River Inc. sponsored the event at Norris Park, and a couple of hundred people dropped by throughout the day to hear the five musical acts that performed at the park gazebo.

Drawings were held for float trips, a motel stay, and a kayak. Cherokee County painters, jewelry makers, photographers, writers, fly fishers, and more were set up in booths. Various organizations hosted demonstrations, crafts, and educational opportunities, and local food trucks were parked near by.

This was the first year a festival focused on the river was held in downtown Tahlequah.

“We decided to hold the festival in town to attract more people and those who don’t normally go to events at the river,” said Denise Deason-Toyne, STIR board president. “So many enjoy the river year-round, and we encourage everyone to make an effort to keep it clean and to support community groups, such as STIR.”

STIR is a not-for-profit, all-volunteer citizens’ organization chartered in 1984 with the state of Oklahoma. Its mission is to protect and preserve the Illinois River, its tributaries, and Lake Tenkiller.

The OSRC is a state agency celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Its primary emphasis is to preserve and protect the aesthetic, scenic, historic, archaeological and scientific features of the Illinois River and its tributaries, according to its website.

Ed Fite, OSRC administrator, said the event was a rejuvenation of festivals held in the 1990s, and was the first of many to come.

“The fall festivals were geared toward children, but this was an opportunity for everyone in the community and region to celebrate clean water and the significance of water in our area,” said Fite. “We hope to continue to have the festival in town. The Illinois River is synonymous with Tahlequah, and vice versa.”

Two Tahlequah men, John Morgan and Ben Chasenah, happened upon the festival by chance. They were interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities and regulations for safely enjoying the river.

“I used to live by and float on a river in Missouri,” said Morgan. “I’m unsure of the rules for floating the Illinois.”

He has participated in river cleanups in the past.

Chasenah had not floated the river, but does spend time in the water in Welling. He understands the importance of clean water and hopes to volunteer to help with clean-up efforts.

Other organizations and government agencies that focus on education, training, awareness, and regulation enforcement were on hand. Most representatives were glad the festival was being held in town.

Michele Loudenback and Steve Gunnels work for the Water Quality Division of the Department of Environmental Quality in stormwater enforcement and industrial wastewater enforcement respectively. They had brought an EnviroScape model, showing that water pollutants come from many sources. The department helps OSRC enforce regulations.

“Having the festival in town makes it easier to access the people,” said Loudenback. “Valuable events like this educate the community. It takes everyone to protect the resource.”

Both Loudenback and Gunnels had their sons assisting with the interactive display. The boys said they enjoyed helping and were earning volunteer hours for Boy Scouts. Gunnels said he also uses the model with the Scouts.

On a break, the boys visited the Blue Thumbs OK table to stamp with a fish.

Cheryl Cheadle, Blue Thumb state coordinator from Tulsa, had brought an EnviroScape model too, but opted to do a craft when she saw the DEQ had one. Festival-goers could daub a rubber fish with paint and then press it to a paper. Water quality information was on the back of the paper.

Blue Thumb is a program of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission that trains volunteers to monitor streams in their communities and share their knowledge of water quality with others. A training was held in Tahlequah last year, but one has not yet been scheduled for this year. Blue Thumb OK helped with the recent restoration of Tahlequah creekbeds.

Cheadle said she can see the benefit of having the festival in town, but hopes there will still be one at the river, to bring people to the water.

“Getting people out to enjoy the environment helps them learn appreciation, and those are steps to protection,” said Cheadle. “There are lots of things ever day citizens can do to protect streams and rivers.”

LEARN MORE

These sites have more information on organizations aimed at protecting the river.

• Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission: www.oklahomascenicrivers.net; www.facebook.com/OKSRC.

• Save the Illinois River Inc.: www.illinoisriver.org; www.facebook.com/pages/Save-the-Illinois-River-STIR.

• Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality: www.deq.state.ok.us; @OklahomaDEQ on Twitter.

• Blue Thumb OK: www.bluethumbok.com; www.facebook.com/BlueThumbOK.

sgourd@tahlequahdailypress.com

1
Text Only
Local News
  • jn cvbc fire.jpg Church catches fire after burglaries

    Authorities are looking for the person accused of breaking into the Crescent Valley Baptist Church two times this week and likely causing a fire that damaged the youth building early Wednesday morning.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • svw Humane photo.tif More volunteers needed to house strays, help with spay-and-neuter

    Furry friends may seem like the perfect addition to round out a family.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Marijuana, seeds lead to four arrests

    Four people were arrested on marijuana related charges early Wednesday morning after a traffic stop on South Muskogee Avenue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Sex offender found living in tent at river

    Cherokee County sheriff’s investigators arrested a convicted sex offender this week when they discovered he has been living in a tent along the river.

    July 24, 2014

  • ts-NSU-MAIN.jpg Fledgling RiverHawks arrive

    Over 200 incoming freshmen took part in orientation class at Northeastern State University

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-TCP-jump.jpg Tahlequah Community Playhouse revving up for new season

    Tahlequah Community Playhouse is kicking of its 41st season with a nod to friendship and aging.
    TCP finished auditions for its first play of the season, “The Dixie Swim Club,” on Tuesday.

    July 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Infant mortality dropping in county

    When a mom-to-be is expecting a healthy, happy baby, every week of pregnancy is crucial.
    Short gestation, or premature births, is a leading cause of infant mortality. Any child born before reaching 37 weeks of gestation is considered premature.

    July 23, 2014

  • Board considers combining tourism, chamber positions

    Members of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the local Tourism Council are discussing the possibility of combining two jobs into one.
    Chamber President Steve Turner encouraged board members Tuesday morning to be prepared next month to decide how it will begin a search for a new executive director.

    July 23, 2014

  • New chamber board members nominated

    Three new board members will likely be installed during the regular August meeting of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce.

    July 23, 2014

  • ts-camp-cherokee-main.jpg Camp Cherokee

    About 500 area youth attending popular camp for tribal citizens.

    In reality, two camps are taking place at the Camp Heart ‘o the Hills: a day camp for children in first through sixth grades, and a residential camp for those in middle and high school.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

Poll

Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman
Stocks