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RRMR students looking to break ground on river trail project

  • RRMR High School students Jacob Stokes and Wylinn Schmidt talk about their STEM river trail project that they would like to complete on Tuesday at the Fossil and Prairie Park. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • RRMR High School students Wylinn Schmidt and Jacob Stokes talk about their STEM river trail project that they would like to complete on Tuesday at the Fossil and Prairie Park. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Ann Schneckloth (left) and Beverly Fisher take notes during a Floyd County Conservation Board meeting on Tuesday. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

By Kelly Terpstra,

A river runs through it.

It doesn’t hurt to have some guidance and instruction along the way.

Three students from RRMR High School are hoping to keep a 9-mile stretch of water that flows through northern Iowa a little cleaner and more accommodating by placing signs along it.

The Winnebago River joins the Shell Rock River just south of Rockford in Floyd County, and the rivers connect the Fossil and Prairie Park just west of Rockford with the Tosanak Recreation Area near Marble Rock.

The river path would be more pleasant for sightseers and anglers, according to the students, if some signs are placed in Floyd County along the way to remind people to respect private land, don’t litter and to be courteous.

The initiative is a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) project, and with the help of Floyd County Conservation, Iowa BIG North and Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock business teacher David Christopherson, the proposal could become a reality.

RRMR senior Jacob Stokes, sophomore Wylinn Schmidt and Christopherson presented their plan at Tuesday’s Floyd County Conservation Board meeting. All members of the board agreed the project was a good idea and they should move forward with it.

Adam Sears, director of Floyd County Conservation, complimented the students for their work.

“It sounds like a good project. We should definitely move forward with this,” said Sears. “Thanks for taking the initiative to do it.”

The students, along with RRMR senior Weston Schmidt, who was not at Tuesday’s meeting, have created brochures and a newsletter they will hand out around the area to let the public know about the project. Christopherson said Floyd County Naturalist Heidi Reams will also help the students set up a website with details about the project.

Stokes said he hasn’t come up with a cost yet for the project, but did say he plans on putting a reflective sign near the Fossil and Prairie Park at the beginning of the 8.67-mile float down the river to Tosanak.

Sears said there is a canoe/kayak boat launch site near the park’s kilns where the river trail starts. An attendee of the meeting said it takes about four hours to navigate the 9-mile stretch of river.

“They can do more planning and get back to you on what the financial cost could be,” Christopherson said. “They’ve got more stuff to find out yet, anyway.”

There could also be mile-marker signs placed that could allow people floating downstream to know how much further they have to go before they reach Tosanak.

Board member Cala McGregor suggested putting up a mile-marker sign on one of the two bridges that paddlers or boaters will pass during the trek toward Tosanak.

“You won’t have to worry about the post in the ground,” said McGregor.

Stokes and Schmidt also said that other signs could have the name of the river trail on it. The students came up with a name of “SRW River Trail.”

“We weren’t sure about the mile markers because of the possible flooding and what you’d have to do to replace them all the time,” said Christopherson.

Stokes said the reflective sign costs just over $20 and is 12 by 18 inches. The informational signs he said run around $85 and are 24 by 36 inches.

Floyd County Conservation Board President Dirk Uetz advised the students to contact the Iowa Department of Transportation or Iowa Prison Industries about making signs.

Floyd County Conservation Board Secretary Ann Schneckloth also thought it would be a good idea if the students could place garbage cans along the river trail as well to limit trash along the shorelines and in the water.

A big undertaking that the students will have to address is contacting the private landowners for permission to place signs along the river. Stokes said he had a list of all those names.

“You’ll have a big job talking to the landowners,” said McGregor.

Another big hurdle the students will have to cross is generating money for the project. Stokes said his group is beginning to write some grant requests for funding.

Wylinn Schmidt said the timeline is to complete the project before school is done, although Christopherson said there’s always the possibility of the project being finished in the summer or in the fall.

“They’ve enjoyed working on it. They really wanted to go down the river to skip school,” Christopherson joked.