Removal of Crumbling Dam Makes Way for Fish, Learning

Workers from Dean’s Landscaping & Excavating begin breaking up the old dam on Rum Creek

A stream behind Parkside Elementary School will become a learning resource for students and teachers, thanks to an ecologically minded parent who helped remove a broken-down dam from its waters.

Workers from Dean’s Landscaping & Excavating recently pounded apart the dilapidated dam on Rum Creek, a tributary of the Rogue River that runs behind the school grounds. Its removal will make way for a free-flowing stream more amenable to brown trout and other fish species that have been choked off by huge hunks of concrete from the old dam.

“It’s a fish-passage barrier, and it’s unsightly and unsafe,” said Joshua Zuiderveen, a Parkside parent and owner of South Peat Environmental LLC. He worked with Trout Unlimited to secure a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fund the project.

A worker finds a crayfish before the dam-breaking gets under way

Besides removing a dangerous eyesore, the restoration will benefit Parkside students such as his children, Darby and Gray, Zuiderveen added: “They get to learn a little more about dam removal, and the value of a cold-water stream to this community.”

He worked with Nichol DeMol, project manager of Trout Unlimited’s Rogue River Watershed Home Rivers Initiative, which aims to protect the Rogue from pollution, remove fish barriers and open up cold-water trout streams. It has worked with seven municipalities, including Rockford, to adopt new or improved protection policies.

Removing the dam will improve Rum Creek’s oxygenation and increase its fish population, said Tom Mundt, treasurer of the local Trout Unlimited chapter. A similar project on the Coldwater River near Freeport raised fish population from 400 to 1,900 per mile over four years, he said.

“Every time we’ve done one of these things we’ve gotten really good results,” Mundt said.

Parkside Principal Larry Waters said Zuiderveen came to him with the idea after the two had gotten to know each other as fishing enthusiasts. Fifth-grade students of Tara Dzirbowicz are documenting the project, which could serve as a teaching resource as part of a nature trail teachers often take students, he said.

“It’s both thinking locally and thinking globally, in the sense it’s a local project that has global undertones,” said Waters, adding that fits the school’s mission. “You’re thinking about your environment in your own backyard, and how that affects the environment outside of that.”

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Rogue River Watershed Home Rivers Initiative

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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