Community Input is Vital to Watershed Planning
You don’t have to look far to find water quality in the headlines. From news stories on Lake Erie’s infamous algal blooms to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, water quality impacts everyone.
Here in Ashland County, we play a vital - if often ignored role - in both of these headline stories. Ashland County is uniquely situated at the headwaters, or the start, of both the Lake Erie and Mississippi watersheds. That means what we do here has big implications downstream.
That’s why the Ohio Department of Agriculture recently awarded Ashland SWCD a grant to target improving the water quality of the Jerome Fork of the Mohican River. One key aspect of doing that is doing watershed planning, one small watershed at a time, and that will be the focus of a meeting on October 9 at 6 p.m. at the Ashland County Service Center.
This first meeting will focus on identifying sources of pollution and impairment in the Lang Creek watershed and working with the community to prioritize tools and practices that can be used to improve our water quality on a local level.
It’s important to understand this is not a stream or a river clean up project - it’s about identifying and prioritizing needs on a watershed scale. To do that, we first have to identify what a watershed is and what it is not.
A watershed is a land area that channels rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, streams and rivers - and then eventually to outflow points such as resevoirs, lakes, bays or the ocean. So even though water is a key part of a watershed, the watershed is actually the land, not the water body.
The first step in this process is a community effort to identify activities and practices taking place on the land that impact our water quality. Once those potential sources are identified, then we can work to prioritize steps and practices that can be implemented on the land that will improve the quality and health of the water in our waterways.
The Jerome Fork is a natural corridor through the center of our county. Nearly half of the county’s land actually drains into the Jerome Fork, including our urban population center: the city of Ashland. And the Lang Creek sub watershed includes over 20 percent of the Jerome Fork’s footprint.
This watershed encompasses part of Clear Creek, Orange, Milton, and Montgomery townships including the city of Ashland. The state has identified this watershed as the most impaired and most vulnerable of the smaller watersheds in the Jerome Fork.
Not only do we as community members enjoy our county’s natural resources and waters, but our water resources - including the Jerome Fork - are a huge economic engine in our county, drawing visitors from across the state and country to our county where their tourism dollars are invested into our local businesses.
That’s why it’s so important that our community members and businesses participate in these community planning meetings. If we fail to protect and preserve our county’s water quality and resources, the impact will not only be felt by our communities and residents, but it will also have a devastating impact on our tourism economy.
I invite you to come join the discussion and make your voices and ideas heard. Our first meeting will be October 9 at 6 p.m. at the Ashland County Service Center. Then, in November we will have a second meeting on November 26 at 7:30 a.m. at Brethren Care Village as part of the Chamber of Commerce’s agricultural breakfast meeting. In the meantime, visit our website at www.ashlandswcd.com to complete a survey sharing your concerns and input about the Lang Creek watershed.