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Impact of Voinovich School environmental site reclamation showcased in virtual tour

Rachael Beardsley
September 30, 2020

For the environmental services team at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, in-person site tours are a common way to showcase a finished project to funders. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, however, tours have continued in a virtual format, and one group impressed funders with a multimedia tour detailing the project from start to finish.

The Ilesboro Road Reclamation Project, funded in part by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, aims to cut in half the amount of acid mine drainage and metals entering the western branch of Raccoon Creek from a former surface mine. To showcase the project’s progress, Raccoon Creek Watershed Coordinator Amy Mackey and Voinovich School Environmental Specialist II Nora Sullivan created a presentation on StoryMap authoring software. The virtual tour offers viewers a dramatic before-and-after comparison complete with text, photos and videos.

“A completed surface mine reclaim often looks like a grassy field,” Sullivan said. “That's all you would be able to see if you went to this site. StoryMap allowed us to show people much more, like historical photos, site maps and drone footage. It's a versatile tool we hope to use in the future.”

Mackey agreed, noting that by posting the tour online, they have reached a much larger audience than a regular site tour.

“We don’t get a lot of people out there to see the sites,” Mackey said. “Normally, we may have only reached a dozen people, but the virtual tour has almost 400 hits.”

John Mathews, the manager of the Nonpoint Source Program at the Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water, said the virtual tour was a unique way to share information. 

“I felt it is a great way to present both the historical and pre- and post-project conditions at the project site and at Raccoon Creek Watershed, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mathews said.