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|12/5/2012 ||Email this article Print this article |
|2012 another banner year for CCCB education programs|
By Jeremy Huss
In 2012, Clinton County's environmental education program for the second time in three years broke its own record for attendance and events.
After setting all-time records in 2010, conservation education programs dipped slightly in 2011 but rebounded strongly this year with the opening of the Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center and the addition of a fourth, full-time naturalist late in the fiscal year.
In a Nov. 13 report to the Clinton County Conservation Board (CCCB), education coordinator Mark Roberts said he expects CCCB's impact to continue to grow as the eco center develops and naturalist Jill Schmidt adjusts to her role.
Revenue increased at all Clinton County parks and campgrounds with the opening of the eco center and a rain-free summer that made for good camping, Roberts said.
"Things are going to hopefully get busier and busier, and that means we're having a bigger impact," he stated.
The total number of education events held by CCCB staff increased by 62 to 664 events in fiscal year 2012, with a total raw attendance of 33,556 people, up 3,338 from 2011.
CCCB staff gave 2,461 presentations, had 72,501 contact hours with visitors and saw substantial increases in events and attendance for elementary and secondary school groups.
A record 140 events were held at Rock Creek Marina and Campground, marking the first time activities at the park surpassed those at the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center, Roberts said.
Completion of interpretative displays at the eco center should draw even larger crowds to Rock Creek, Roberts said, but CCCB needs to figure out a way to better track visitation numbers at the park and the eco center.
"The site is popular, but its biggest and best years still lie ahead. In 2013, it should see numbers skyrocket even higher than our record this year," Roberts wrote in the annual education report.
CCCB also held a record number of eco cruises on its Blue Heron boat, with 163 cruises for 3,976 people, making for "a good year all the way around."
However, CCCB learned in May the Coast Guard no longer will allow it to accept donations for cruises, which will reduce opportunities for growth, particularly for non-school youth groups, private groups and out-of-county-groups.
Improvements to the nature center and campground at Eden Valley Refuge resulted in an 8 percent increase in events, and the park continues to hold steady with its own education niche, Roberts said.
CCCB continues to utilize Werden's Cave, located on nearby private land, as a vital part of the education program at Eden Valley, Roberts stated.
He noted the biggest complaint about Eden Valley continues to be the lack of flush toilets, as children are afraid to use the existing pit toilets.
Programs at the Soaring Eagle Nature Center and the Wapsi River Center have surged, and CCCB's involvement in the Wapsi Center it shares with the Scott County Conservation Board increased compared to recent years, Roberts noted.
New leadership, new energy and a partnership with the Silos and Smokestacks program are bringing improvements and new opportunities for Soaring Eagle, Roberts wrote.
A lack of money and time remain the biggest obstacles at the nature center, Roberts said, but the future has promise, particularly if Clinton schools can put their budget problems behind them and re-discover Soaring Eagle.
CCCB hopes to increase its involvement at the Wapsi River Center in the coming year with its larger naturalist staff in order to reverse a recent trend that has seen a weakening in the connection between Clinton and Scott county conservation.
Roberts credited the field trip scholarship program created by the Clinton County Conservation Foundation for much of the growth in attendance by school groups.
The program gave out $10,800 in bus scholarships that funded 154 buses logging 4,272 miles to transport 5,324 students to conservation education programs, he reported.
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