Kickapoo Creek festival celebrates vital 2,000 square-mile watershed

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Two local nature conservation groups invited people to Wildlife Prairie Park for the first-ever Kickapoo Creek Festival, Saturday, Aug. 14.

Friends of Rocky Glen teamed up with Friends of Kickapoo Creek to educate the community about the creek’s vital role in Peoria County’s ecology.

The President of Friends of Rocky Glen, David Pittman, said Kickapoo Creek Watershed covers half of the county, spanning 2,000 square miles.

“The watershed plays a primary role at how people look at and understand what’s going on around us,” Pittman said.

Pittman said the festival is a way to celebrate the beauty of the waterway, but also raise awareness about preserving this important wildlife resource.

“How the humans use it, how the wildlife uses it, where a plant chooses to grow, why it gets big or it doesn’t get big, pollution issues, it’s all connected with the concept of the watershed,” Pittman said.

The festival offered guests a variety of nature-focused events, like geology tours, plant and fish identification workshops, yoga classes, and, at night, stargazing led by the Peoria Astronomical Society. Free overnight camping was also available.

Pittman said another focus of the festival is to come together and discuss problems threatening the creek’s health and how to solve them.

“You see the impact of erosion and soil pollution,” Pittman said. “The herbicides that people put on their yards in the suburbs, the resident areas, what farmers do sometimes in their fields. We can do better than that.”

Jack Myrna is President of Friends of Kickapoo Creek and said he wants people to walk away from the festival recognizing the watershed’s beauty. He said he wants people to feel inspired to keep it pollution-free.

“It’s getting the word out there to make people start thinking about what we’re doing with those pesticides, with those herbicides, and ways to help keep those in the ground and spray them better, establish riparian buffers,” said Myrna. “And make farmers aware that people really do care about this great resource that we have.”

Myrna said he hopes the area will someday be federally protected.

“Everything from Peoria can potentially get dumped into Kickapoo Creek,” Myrna said. The biodiversity of Kickapoo Creek is so similar to some federally protected waterways and I think it’s so important that this should be protected too.”

Pittman said if people experience and enjoy the wonders of Kickapoo Creek, the festival served its purpose.

“One of the best things that we could do is encourage people to have a lot of fun outdoors and appreciate that if they want to keep this for future generations,” Pittman said. “You got to work for it.”

To learn more about Friends of Rocky Glen, visit their website. You can learn more about upcoming clean-up events with Friends of Kickapoo Creek on their Facebook page.

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