OHIO Graduate Student Creates Map Highlighting the Raccoon Creek Water Trail while describing restorative activities throughout the Watershed

Austin Stahl
June 18, 2012

What happens when you cross an Ohio University student with a passion for environmental storytelling and a rare artistic ability? You get a truly extraordinary and original project, created by the very talented Karla Sanders.

Sanders received her M.S. in environmental studies from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs in June 2012, and utilized her wide-ranging talents when completing her research and leadership project for the program. Using GIS and design programs, she created a 22 x 25.5 folded map brochure that includes information about the Raccoon Creek Watershed, recreational canoeing and kayaking access sites to the creek, and even original illustrations.

Spreading across the hills of southeast Ohio, the 683 square mile Raccoon Creek watershed is embedded in more than 60,000 acres of national and state forests, state parks, and wildlife management areas in Athens, Hocking, Vinton, Jackson, Meigs, and Gallia counties. The Raccoon Creek Partnership is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving and protecting the water quality of the watershed in this beautiful area.

The brochure contains information about trail attractions and recreational activities in the area, water trail access points, creek facts, geologic, human, water quality, and land use history, native plant and animal species, socioeconomic dynamics, and watershed resources. It is unique in bringing together all this information into one place, combined with aesthetically pleasing artwork, design and detailed directions.

"The map that Karla has developed is of huge value to the efforts of the Raccoon Creek Water Trail," said Molly Gurien, chair of the Raccoon Creek Water Trail Association and biology professor at Ohio University. "Our mission is to encourage stewardship and environmentally responsible recreation in the watershed, and to promote the natural and cultural resources of Raccoon Creek through public access and education.The map serves as a valuable tool for both navigation and education, is beautifully designed and illustrated, and will enhance our promotional and outreach activities."

After decades of problems with stream pollution in the past, citizens, communities, organizations, and state agencies have come together to form the Raccoon Creek Partnership with a shared mission: "to work toward conservation, stewardship, and restoration of the watershed for a healthier stream and community."

The environmental studies graduate program (and often in conjunction with the university-wide faculty and staff that support the Consortium for Energy, Economics & the Environment) at the Voinovich School provides applied research opportunities through a leadership practicum, giving students the chance to work on real-world problems with local governments, community leaders and nonprofit organizations under the guidance of an advisor.  The Raccoon Creek Partnership is one such partner, working on water quality restoration projects in the region.  Dr. Bernhard Debatin, a professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and part of OHIO's Environmental Studies Advisory Board, oversaw Karla's project as her thesis advisor. 

Other faculty members involved in the program also recognized the significance of Karla's map.  "The practicum option has allowed students to develop into environmental leaders in the region," said Dr. Natalie Kruse, chairperson of the Raccoon Creek Partnership and assistant professor of environmental studies at the Voinovich School.  "Karla's project is a great example of a successful project; her map will become the basis for not only promoting the water trail, but will  also allow paddlers to navigate the river and learn about the watershed."

The map is a valuable resource for the region, and the design is complete and ready for the next stage of printing and distribution. Anyone interested in supporting the production of the map can donate directly to the Raccoon Creek Partnership.

Watch the progression of her stunning project captured on the left or view it on our YouTube channel here.

View the map by clicking below:

For more information about Raccoon Creek, visit www.raccooncreek.org.