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Pedal and Paddle Tour launch to coincide with Earth Day event June 11

RELEASED: May 31, 2011

The Pedal and Paddle Pollution Tour received financial support from UW-Eau Claire's Blugold Commitment.

EAU CLAIRE — The University of
Wisconsin-Eau Claire's new Pedal and Paddle Pollution Tour will be launched during the Earth Day is Every Day community celebration June 11 at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire.

Community members interested in learning more about pollution issues facing the Chippewa River in Eau Claire are welcome to canoe, kayak or bike a route of approximately five miles along the Chippewa River from Phoenix Park to the Highway 85 rest stop. The tour will begin at 1 p.m. and participants should meet at the river bank (near the rocky ledge down the hill from the Farmers Market) with their own watercraft and/or bikes.

Canoes from the UW-Eau Claire Outdoor Adventure Center, accommodating a total of 12-18 people, will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Free maps of the pollution tour route will be provided to all participants and some transportation back to Phoenix Park at the end of the tour will be available.
UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich will participate in the "pedaling" and instructors and student members of the "Environmental Conservation and Action" class will lead the "paddling."

The tour is the result of a faculty-student research project to educate the public about pollution issues in the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area. The route is accessible from Eau Claire bike trails or the Chippewa River as people hike, kayak, canoe or bike to pre-set GPS waypoints on the river. It features 11 stops, each highlighting different pollution issues affecting the river basin. Topics vary from invasive species issues to light and noise pollution to road salt to pharmaceuticals.

"Our goal is to inspire citizens who take this tour to actively steward our valuable river," said Dr. Ruth Cronje, an associate professor of English who co-taught the interdisciplinary course in fall 2010. "We want people to use the tour as a way to connect to the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area and to learn about the things they can do to help conserve our beautiful local resource.

"When you go on the Chippewa River, you can't help but fall in love with it. If we can get the public on the water for the tour, it will be a powerful experience. If this tour encourages even 50 people from the community to get out on the river, it will be worth it."

Helping students learn to communicate effectively about environmental issues was a primary goal of the course, co-taught by Cronje; Dr. Garry Running, professor of geography; Dr. Paula Kleintjes Neff, professor of biology; and Dr. Don Mowry, professor of social work and director of the Center for Service-Learning.

Agencies that worked with the students were Clear Vision Eau Claire — Sustainability Task Force; Lower Chippewa River Alliance; River Country Resource Conservation and Development Council; UW-Extension Lower Chippewa River Basin educator; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; and UW-Eau Claire Environmental Adventure Center.

The community partners served as resources, helping students better understand complex issues; and directed students to legal documents, research studies and other resources that helped them gather and verify information that was critical to their presentations.

The Pedal and Paddle Pollution Tour received financial support from UW-Eau Claire's Blugold Commitment and the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board. A year ago, the Student Senate and the UW System Board of Regents supported increasing the amount of differential tuition UW-Eau Claire students pay, with the new dollars going to fund Blugold Commitment projects that enhance student learning.

More information about the Pedal and Paddle Pollution Tour can be found online with a virtual tour featuring 10 three-minute student-created videos about environmental issues found along the river. Maps highlighting the tour stops are available at stores and other locations throughout the Chippewa Valley.
The Pedal and Paddle Pollution Tour was featured in the spring issue of The View, UW-Eau Claire's alumni publication. You can find the story at

The Earth Day event is being held in conjunction with the Open Air Festival of the Arts from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. next to the Phoenix Community Gardens. The celebration will include planting in the community garden; demonstrations on composting, rain gardens and constructing rain barrels; and children's activities.

For more information, contact Dr. Ruth Cronje at



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