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Environmental Science Class Creates Walking Tour for Muddy Run

(Posted November 5, 2001)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- To those that live along its banks, Muddy Run creek may look slightly overgrown, but a group of Juniata College environmental science students plan to show how the creek functions as a living filter and home to wildlife and plant life on a walking tour from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Nov. 10, starting at the Weis Market parking lot.

The tour is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served at the end of every tour.

"The tour is designed to be the initial event of a project that will eventually create a self-guided tour along Muddy Run that will educate those who walk the route in how the creek functions in the environment," explains Holly Wolbert, a senior from Erie, Pa. studying environmental science and anthropology. "By spring, we hope to use posts to mark various stations along the length of the route where visitors can see different aspects of the Muddy Run riparian zone."

Wolbert and seven other Juniata College students are creating the tour and an educational brochure describing what visitors are seeing at each of the route's eight stations. The students tackled the project as part of a course called Environmental Problem-Solving, taught by Paula Martin, associate professor of environmental science and studies, and David Hsiung, W. Newton and Hazel Long Professor of History. The students also are collaborating with the Muddy Run Watershed Association and Andy Patterson, district manager of the Huntingdon County Conservation District, to create the educational tour.

"Erosion along the banks of the stream causes sediment to build up in Muddy Run, which causes flooding during heavy rains," says Beth Kobylarz, a senior from Nanticoke, Pa. "Maintaining a natural riparian zone along the length of Muddy Run will help stabilize the banks of Muddy Run and help reduce the severity of flooding."

The students are working with the facilities services department at Juniata to create numbered posts, which will be installed along the tour route in the spring. In addition the student group is working to create four larger educational signs that also will be posted along the route.

The eight stations of the walking tour are:

--Pipe Problems. This stop shows how two drainage pipes flow into a single pipe under the 15th Street bridge. On the opposite side of the bridge, visitors can see a well-maintained riparian zone (the natural vegetative growth bordering a stream or other body of water).

--A Good Riparian Zone. At the Weis Market Bridge, the tour points out how the site features nesting and feeding sites for songbirds, habitat for wildlife and ample plant growth to absorb storm runoff and filter sediment and other materials. Guides will point out various plant species at this point.

--Channeling and Containment. At the bridge crossing near the a local park and Juniata's Knox Stadium, guides will point out how building a vertical stone wall to channel the stream has caused more stream erosion and increased the speed of water runoff.

--Stream banks, Trees and Ponds. This tour stop shows how the construction of a wetland and containment pond will lessen some of the flooding and erosion problems on Muddy Run, Another site, downstream from the constructed wetland, details how rocks or other materials can be used to stabilize a stream bank -- making erosion and sedimentation more controllable. Guides also will point out a streamside willow tree that illustrates the role trees and large vegetation plays in water filtration.

--Habitat and Water Filters. This site at the East Bridge shows a creekside area that has been allowed to grow wild. Guides will show how various animal, fish and invertebrate species use a stream as habitat and how the plants can filter sediment and contaminants from storm runoff.

--Sedimentation. Along the 23rd Street bridge guides will point out how sediment has built up and divided the stream into two channels.

--Man-made problems. At the 25th Street bridge, a retaining wall has caused sedimentation along one side of the bank. On the opposite side of the bridge, a natural riparian zone has formed, providing visitors an accessible view of contrasting conditions.

--Food and Shelter. At the bridge near Shadyside Free Methodist Church, guides will show how erosion has formed high stream banks and how wildlife in the area have adapted to the habitat.

The other Juniata College students involved in the project are: Maricatherine Garr, a sophomore from Jonas, Pa.; Colleen Filicky, a senior from Irwin, Pa.; Julia Saylor, a senior from Williamsburg, Pa.; Erika Huyett, a sophomore from Zionsville, Pa.; Courtney Filipiak, a senior from Dysart, Pa.; and Mark Barnsley, a sophomore from Baldwin, Md.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.