Today we hear back from IRWP summer intern, Ian Dexter, who will enter his sophomore year at Iowa State University this fall to study Mechanical Engineering.  Ian has been a great asset to the IRWP team this summer, organizing the Tour de Cave, designing a pavilion for the Watershed Sanctuary, and maintaining the trails and grounds.

It has been such an exciting time to be involved with IRWP this year due to the numerous developments at the Watershed Sanctuary in Cave Springs as well as the Partnership’s other projects. I felt honored to be part of this progress as the summer intern this year.



Ian Dexter, Summer Intern, and Rex Barrett, Project Manager, transport supplies for the Tour de Cave.

I didn’t know what to expect at first, but I was pleasantly surprised to apply mechanical engineering skills to this internship. Since the first week of working at the Watershed Sanctuary, I have reviewed engineering drawings such as the new control gate structure that is being installed in the lake and the plans for the pavilion on the northern shore.

Halfway through my internship, I used mechanical engineering software to design a pavilion with a green roof that will be constructed on the southern shore of the lake. With the helpful assistance of Mr. Rex Barrett, Project Manager, I was able to complete a realistic design that will fit well with the landscape and functionality of the Watershed Sanctuary.

I presented my design to the IRWP Board of Directors in August. Designing the green roof pavilion allowed me to experience practical engineering practices such as Low Impact Development strategies that improve water quality and provide a scenic structure next to the entrance of Cave Springs Cave. I learned that an environmental approach can go hand in hand with any field of study, especially engineering.

IMG_1047 Presenting the pavilion design to the IRWP Board of Directors at their quarterly meeting in August.

Organizing the first IRWP bike event, “Tour de Cave”, was another highlight of my internship. I was able to combine my cycling interest to raise public awareness of the IRWP. I led a group of cyclists on a 12 mile route from downtown Cave Springs to the Razorback Regional Greenway trail in Rogers. Seeing the event on the front page of the newspaper the next day was a very rewarding experience. In the future, I hope that a spur path will connect the Razorback Greenway to the Watershed Sanctuary as an easy access to the community.

10551118_10152335144399121_8399301286637100386_nLeading approximately 45 cyclists along the Razorback Regional Greenway during the Tour de Cave.

I’d like to thank Dr. Delia Haak for giving me this opportunity and believing in my abilities this summer. I’d also like to thank Rex Barrett, who has trusted me with diverse responsibilities and for always having something for me to work on. The entire IRWP staff has been a genuinely friendly and fun group to work with. Finally, I want to acknowledge Mabel, which is the most loyal John Deere garden tractor you will ever meet. I will miss working at the Watershed Sanctuary and will look forward to the ongoing progress of the Illinois River Watershed Partnership’s projects as I come back to visit my hometown of Cave Springs throughout the year.

Related Posts:

Meet Ian, Our Summer Intern!

6 Summer Selfies at the Sanctuary

Nature In Progress