Whether it was an Enviroscape, electrofishing, the pasture walk, or kicking up bugs, nonpoint source pollution was the name of the game at the Hatch Run Fall Festival.
Warren County Conservation District officials were joined by Penn State Master Gardeners, U.S. Forest Service personnel, the Warren County Council of Sportsmen’s Clubs, and the Warren County Historical Society, in presenting the all-day event Saturday at the Hatch Run Conservation Demonstration Area in Glade Township.
“We’ve had tons of kids that we have educated today,” Conservation District Office Manager Judy Froman said. “If you can reach the children now, they’ll be more responsible later.”
Nonpoint source pollution happens when rain washes pollutants from undeterminable sources into lakes and rivers, Froman said.
Watershed Specialist Jean Gomory’s Enviroscape was the most direct demonstration of nonpoint source pollution. She used a three-dimensional map to show how farms, industries, and homes can produce various pollutants and how those pollutants make their way downhill into streams, rivers and lakes.
She gave examples of how to prevent pollutants from getting into waterways and suggested less harmful alternatives to chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Gomory also showed children and adults some of the indicators of the health of Hatch Run. The types of macroinvertebrates — bugs — that can be kicked up in a stream tell how clean the water is. Some bugs only survive in waters that are very clean and free of pollutants, she said.
Nathan Welker of the U.S. Forest Service presented his own version of kicking up bugs. However, he used high-tech equipment and kicked up larger creatures
Welker, with the help of Trout Unlimited Cornplanter Chapter Vice-president Jim Lawson and Gomory, used electrical stimulation to bring fish and other water creatures to their nets.
The electrical charge was produced by a large backpack worn by Welker, and transmitted to the water through two long electrodes. Welker warned the spectators not to touch the water while the electrodes were active.
He explained that the electrical charge stimulated the water creatures muscles, causing them to fire rapidly and, in turn, swim toward the nets.
The shock turned up three brown trout of eight inches or more and dozens of smaller fish and minnows. The netters also collected some crayfish and a frog.
“In a stream of this size in northwestern Pennsylvania we have a pretty good idea of what kinds of fish we should see,” Welker said. Comparing that expectation with the fish that are actually present in the waterway gives the agency administering the shocks information about water quality.
“Assessing the fish population is a very good way to tell us how the watershed is doing as a whole,” Welker said.
Froman said the demonstration area pond is always open for catch-and-release fishing. For four hours on Saturday, the Conservation District provided equipment, bait, and instruction to ensure those who were interested in fishing got the opportunity, even if they didn’t have their own gear. District Technician served as the fishing instructor for those who were new to the sport.
A group of snake enthusiasts held a sort of snake petting zoo at the education center. Froman said that demonstration was very popular with children and adults alike.
Thanks to Cory Turben, visitors could touch the lumpy back scales and smooth belly scales of a timber rattlesnake. The snake’s head was kept contained in a clear plastic tube in the interest of safety.
Three other snakes, a black rat snake, a large garter snake, and a copperhead, were also on display.
Teaching children and adults about nonpoint source pollution was the primary goal of the event. Froman said the secondary goal was to show people what the Hatch Run Conservation Demonstration Area has to offer. “It’s here and it’s always open,” she said. “We’re here for the county.”
Froman said the Conservation District received a grant from the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts in the amount of $1,800 for expenses related to the nonpoint source pollution portions of the event.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Big fish in a little stream
Nathan Welker of the U.S. Forest Service shows a brown trout to participants in his demonstration of electrofishing. The fish, and all the other aquatic creatures stunned by the electrical shocks, was returned to the stream.