Earth Day at the Illinois River Watershed Partnership finds each of our team members actively educating and conducting conservation projects throughout the Watershed.


Lauren Ray, Education Outreach Coordinator, is at Old High Middle School in Bentonville, where Lauren attended grade school and returns to conduct watershed education and share her passion for nature and outdoor education with current students.  In May over 700 students will visit the Watershed Sanctuary and Lauren also makes regular presentations at local elementary, middle and high schools.

Lauren Ray teaching

Lauren Ray welcomes students, teachers and parents to the Watershed Sanctuary


The Clean Water Raingers duo of Captain Marshall Mitchell and volunteer coordinator Jennifer Michaels, are at Brightfield Middle School performing a live concert and providing Watershed books and CDs to 6th grade students.    The Clean Water Raingers program is one of six statewide finalists for the 2014 ENVY Award named annually by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and announced at the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission meeting in Little Rock.

Clean Water Raingers Marshall Mitchell

Captain Marshall Mitchell performs Clean Water Raingers program


Becky Roark, Rain Garden Resource Specialist, is preparing excavation and planting of another ten rain gardens, raising the grand total to 60 rain gardens established in the last three years in the Illinois River and Beaver Lake Watersheds.  Becky’s “Watershed Landscape” series details how to build and reasons why to build a rain garden for homes, businesses, schools, and parks.

Becky Roark at Fisher Ford tree planting

Becky Roark works at Siloam Springs Whitewater Recreation Park planting trees from Flint Creek Power Plant Tree Farm


Rex Barrett, Project Manager, is leading renovations at the Watershed Sanctuary and Learning Center, getting it ready for visitors, education, and art and nature programs.  The trails, forests, stream and Learning Center restorations keep Rex very busy preparing for end of school and summer programs.

Rex in artists studio

Rex Barrett, Project Manager, renovating the Watershed Learning Center


I’m at the University of Arkansas presenting to an Environmental Law class on the mission, vision and goals of the Partnership as an example of diverse stakeholders coming together to help improve, preserve and protect our watershed.  Challenged and engaged at the University’s National Agricultural Law Center, 60 students in this class will take on the roles of diverse stakeholders and seek to identify collaborative solutions for their shared watershed.


Delia Haak sharing Illinois River Watershed map 


Cheria Simpson, an IRWP volunteer trail guide, recently led a group of kids and one young boy proudly showed Cheria what he was gathering and asked “What’s this?”   Cheria answered, “It’s a hickory nut.”   Then the next question surprised Cheria.   “What’s a hickory nut?”   After patiently describing where hickory nuts came from and spelling it out for the young explorer, he began repeating the spelling “h-i-c-k-o-r-y” over and over as he began gathering again.   Cheria smiled as she retold this story and recalled that her own interest in nature began when she wanted to learn the names of the many unique and beautiful plants she enjoyed.

Cheria made the observation that the native plants have the “freedom to show up on the edges of the trail but are not found inside the jumble of overgrown areas of winter creeper and honey suckle”.  Her discoveries along the Sanctuary trail continue to inspire her love and enthusiasm.  “I’m not an expert; I’m am enthusiast.”


Cheria Simpson

Cheria Simpson, volunteer trail guide, catalogued the photos of Ozark Trillium below.



We’re working to inspire and educate more enthusiasts and work with experts in the fields of agriculture, business, conservation, construction, government and education.

We are reminded every day how unique the Illinois River Watershed truly is and on this Earth Day we celebrate the wonders of our watershed and commit to educate and help improve it every day.

Trillium Collage

Ozark Trillium blooms are white and mature into pinkish purple color – HAPPY EARTH DAY!


Related Posts:

Nature’s Classroom: Outdoor Immersion and Lifelong Learning

2014: Making it Count

The Watershed Landscape: Shining the Light on Watershed Stewards