8th Annual Earth Day Environmental Justice Conference

Little Beaver Creek, Groundwater, and Trees to be topics of KSU East Liverpool Earth Day Environmental Justice Conference

Beaver Creek State Park and the Little Beaver Creek are jewels that provide nature experiences for residents of Columbiana County, and they are also an attraction for people out of the area, providing income for local businesses and restaurants. Currently, the Ohio Legislature has passed legislation that could affect the level of the water in the creek, endangering wildlife in the area and depriving visitors of the experiences in nature that the park provides. The creek, groundwater quality before testing, and the value of an urban forest will be topics of Kent State University at East Liverpool’s annual Earth Day Conference to be held this year on Saturday, April 20 in the Main Classroom Building located at 400 East Fourth Street, East Liverpool.

James Kerr, Founder and Curator of the Little Beaver Creek State Park Wildlife Education Center, and Thomas Butch, Columbiana County Park Commissioner and founding member of the “Save Little Beaver Creek State Park” will discuss issues that Beaver Creek State Park and Little Beaver Creek face because of “fracking” that is increasing in Columbiana and Mahoning Counties. They will discuss concerns about recent laws passed by the Ohio legislature that affect removing water from creeks like Little Beaver, and concerns about endangering plant and animal species in the Park and in the area should the water level drop so far that it would not sustain this life.

In other counties, companies conducting fracking buy water from local water companies rather than taking water from creeks. This could be a simple solution for our area and a part of the cost of doing business that would keep the water in Little Beaver Creek at a sustainable level, protect wildlife, and continue the quality of experience of visitors to the park.

Water is also the topic of a second presentation. Elizabeth Kline, an Instructor of Biology and Environmental Technologies at Zane State College will discuss water testing to determine groundwater quality prior to fracking. Students in Kline’s classes sampled groundwater in partnership with The Wilds, a founding member of the Conservation Centers for Species Survival. The Wilds is located in Cumberland, Ohio. Students used protocols established by Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and analyzed samples according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) methods.

How does an urban forest affect water and global warming? What is the value of an urban forest? Cassandra Clevenger and Stephanie Deibel, senior Biology students at Kent State University (KSU), will discuss examining and cataloging the urban forest on the Campus of KSU. Along with Clevenger and Deibel, 11 other students were involved in this project that uses a newly developed National Forest System computer program called I-Tree. Information from Mobile Mapper GPS units collected on 16 acres of urban forest at KSU and the conclusions about the value of the urban forest that were reached after entering information into I-Tree will be the subject of their presentation. 

Both Butch and Kerr have degrees in Biology. Butch worked for his entire career for ODNR, primarily with the Department of Mineral Resource Management. Currently he spends much of his time working in Columbiana County Parks and to protect Little Beaver Creek.  He has been active with the Leetonia Sportsman Club Kid’s Day and is a founding member of the “Explore the Outdoors” event held at Beaver Creek State Park in August over the past several summers. Kerr taught biology at Beaver Local High School before moving to the Columbiana County Educational Center and the Mahoning County Educational Center. He is also a founding member of the “Explore the Outdoors” event.  Both are advocates for a clean and safe environment for the organisms, plants and animals that need the creek to live, and a park with experiences that help the people of the area to create bonds with nature. Kerr currently teaches at the Ohio Valley College of Technology.

“As curator of the Wildlife Education Center, Kerr has created an invaluable resource, a center unrivaled in this part of the state,” Dr. Patti Swartz, a Professor at KSUEL stated after a visit to the center. “I had the opportunity to see species I had never seen before, an egg collection that is very impressive, and other collections not often brought together in one center.”

Kline says that she believes that active, experiential learning grounded in the local community is an excellent way for students to learn. In her student’s classes, Zane State partnered with The Wilds focused on hydrogeology, not only improving student learning, but also gathering essential data about groundwater before fracking takes place. Kline has a Master of Science in Environmental Science from Pace University.  In addition to her work on water, she also teaches OSHA Industrial Health and Safety Courses and Environmental Site Assessments. She is a former Project Manager for environmental site assessments in White Plains, New York, and worked as Senior Environmental Health and Safety Specialist at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

Clevenger and Deibel, with other members of the group that completed the urban forest assessment are presenting their findings at national and regional conferences:  the 68th Soil and Water Conservation Society Annual Conference in Reno, Nevada, and the 2013 Ohio Storm Water Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Student papers for the conference are being accepted by e-mail to Dr. Patti Swartz, pswartz@kent.edu. Poster presentations can be entered in contests for essay and poster presentations on the day of the conference. Information about these contests is available on the KSUEL website, http://www.col. kent.edu.  KSUEL Bookstore provides gift certificates for prizes.

KSUEL’s Earth Day Environmental Justice Conference will be held on April 20, 2013 beginning with a continental breakfast at 8 a.m. Student essay presentations will begin at 9 a.m. followed by presentations by Butch, Kerr, Clevenger and Deible. Posters will be judged during lunch, provided by the campus. Kline will present at approximately 1:45 p.m. Trees for planting will be available to those attending the event for as long as the supply lasts. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend. For more information, contact Dr. Swartz, pswartz@kent.edu.