League Lines: Will Dilg Chapter Brings Community Together For Conservation

Will Dilg Chapter River Restoration

Minnesota >> The League’s Will Dilg Chapter (Winona, Minnesota, and Fountain City, Wisconsin) bridged stream banks — and brought together two local universities — to restore a once-vibrant waterway in downtown Winona.

Shives Creek connects Lake Winona to the Mississippi River. (The creek is named for a by-product of flax straw processing — an industry that was a large component of Winona’s economy in the early 1900s.) In the mid-1900s, Shives Creek was an oftenvisited fishing hole. Many older Winonans fondly remember catching bass, crappie, and pike in these waters. However, the creek turned into a dumping ground, making it much less hospitable to fish — and outdoor recreation.

So members of the Will Dilg Chapter worked to restore the creek and establish collaborative relationships among businesses, universities, and nonprofit groups in the community to more broadly support environmental health. Project partners include the Will Dilg Chapter, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, Winona State University, private businesses, and the city and county of Winona. The group was dubbed “Clean Winona,” which embodies the purpose of the first clean-up event as well as the goal for future events.

For the “Revive Shives Creek” cleanup project in October, Will Dilg Chapter members provided much of the logistical oversight, including reaching out to landowners for access permission and locating additional resources to make the event possible. Chapter members also worked with both universities to provide an opportunity for students to participate in the cleanup. More than 60 students attended in all, and many came away with a newfound appreciation for this often overlooked creek.

Some clean-up volunteers patrolled the water in canoes and kayaks. Others rappelled down the creek’s steep banks to collect garbage along the shorelines. By the end of the event, three large construction dumpsters were filled with an array of garbage, including beverage cans, TVs, bed frames, computers, bikes, and more.

The Will Dilg Chapter and its Clean Winona partners hope to continue the effort at Shives Creek. Potential projects include dredging the creek to remove substrate debris and working with faculty at St. Mary’s University to sample fish during different stages of the clean-up process to gauge the effects of riparian improvements. In addition, Clean Winona organizations plan to work together on other clean-up projects to continue promoting environmental stewardship and a sense of community.

Will Dilg Chapter members see this collaboration as a great opportunity to develop future conservation leaders and increase the chapter’s visibility in the community. Chapter members are also working to develop a wood duck box project to engage youth and provide an opportunity to deliver environmental education related to the Mississippi River.