Here’s a unique way to engage residents in protecting a sensitive watershed

Don Clark and Jason Fladland had tried public meetings, water festivals and citizen committees to raise awareness of issues facing the Tenmile Creek Watershed, a source of drinking water for Helena, Mont.

Not satisfied with the results, they came up with, in Clark’s words, “a crazy idea.” Why not organize a run/walk through the watershed and let people experience the resources that need protecting? Thus was born the annual, “Running Water for Helena” event, held for the fifth time on July 26.

“We thought we’d have people come out and do a 10-mile run or a 5K run, get some media attention, have shirts made up and offer tours of the treatment plant,” says Clark, water and wastewater treatment superintendent in the city’s Department of Public Works.

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Participants get an intimate look at the watershed, through which water flows to the city’s Tenmile Water Treatment Plant. “We wanted to do something different,” says Fladland, water production supervisor. “People actually run or walk on the road right along Tenmile Creek. It’s nice scenery, with pine and deciduous trees. The wildlife is abundant – you never know what you’ll see out there.”

The run if followed by a short address from the mayor and talks by representatives of the U.S EPA, the U.S Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation about projects underway in the watershed.

“The money we receive from sponsors and registration fees — about $3,000 each year — goes to the Montana Discovery Foundation and the Lake Helena Watershed Group, nonprofit groups that do educational projects in the watershed,” says Clark.

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“The Montana Discovery Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the Forest Service, is instrumental in helping us organize the event. They solicit volunteers and sponsors and provide funds and other support, without which we wouldn’t be able to pull this off.”

You can learn about the issues facing the Tenmile Creek Watershed in this video.

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