The restoration and protection of Gills Creek will only succeed if those living and working in the watershed understand how their actions affect its health. We provide many opportunities for informal education about the watershed and what citizens can do to protect it.
Educational Signage: GCWA has partnered with the Richland Library Cooper and Northeast, Midlands Technical College – Beltline Campus, and Richland County’s Community Planning and Development Department to develop and install educational signs at four locations across the watershed, thanks to funding from a Richland County Conservation Commission grant. Signs can soon be seen at Richland Library Cooper, Richland Library Northeast, Midlands Technical College – Beltline Campus, and the Jackson Creek Restoration Project site (which will be located at the old Zorba’s property on Decker Blvd).
Plant Resources: GCWA has put together information about native and invasives plants to help homeowners learn about the issues with invasive plants and great native alternatives that can be used: Native vs Invasive Plants in the Gills Creek Watershed
Resources for Parents and Teachers: As the pandemic has made face to face learning more difficult, we have tried to assist with social media challenges, physical resources and ideas. See resources for young children in the sidebar. For more in-depth watershed learning, please visit https://www.discoverwater.org/. The site includes check lists, prompts for action, and a lot of good information. Kids in Parks has a great prompt with lots of resources to help kids make a nature journal. https://www.kidsinparks.com/blog/creating-nature-journal Consider encouraging your kids to make a video or write a story about the watershed.
Smithsonian Water/Ways Exhibit at Congaree National Park: GCWA participated in this exhibit and the accompanying symposium that was held from November 2020-January 2021. Congaree National Park and Friends of Congaree Swamp co-hosted the Smithsonian traveling exhibit Water/Ways. According to the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street “Water/Ways exhibition dives into water—an essential component of life on our planet, environmentally, culturally, and historically.” GCWA was included in this exhibit, featuring the work of Holly Floyd and the history of Gills Creek Watershed. You can now view the History of the Watershed video presentation and the Voices of the Watershed presentation that was part of this exhibit here.
2015 Flood: Perhaps the best example of GCWA’s educational efforts occurred during and after the historic 2015 flood, which caused a number of breached dams, extensive property damage and loss of life in the Gills Creek Watershed. Our director at the time provided nearly continual updates to members and the media, and often was cited as one of the best sources of information about what was happening on the ground. Our website contains a link to flood stage information, so that anyone interested can monitor the potential for flooding during heavy rain events.
School Outreach: GCWA has engaged with local schools on projects ranging from Model Cities to clean up efforts, to our most recent project to teach high school students how to communicate with the general public and elected officials about issues important affecting the watershed. GCWA has also served as a “client” organization for several groups of USC students honing their marketing skills.
Lecture Series: In partnership with the Richland County Public Library, GCWA has presented lectures focused on issues relevant to Gills Creek, but of interest to a wider public audience. Recent topics have included incorporating a sense of place into our efforts and the archeology of the Gills Creek area.
Field Trips: GCWA has arranged “urban paddles,” watershed tours and other opportunities to help members and others become more familiar with their watershed. Tours have offered examples of infrastructure and watershed friendly development as well as opportunities more focused on natural resources.
Presentations: Staff and board members frequently speak to groups such as Rotary Clubs and Homeowners’ Associations. In addition, we have provided information to the community at events ranging from Earth Day celebrations to River Rocks to large environmental education events to Columbia’s Soda City market.
EPA Environmental Justice Fish Study Grant: Prompted by a concern for the health of subsistence fishermen, particularly in the lower reaches of the watershed, GCWA partnered with USC Aiken to conduct a questionnaire-based study of fish catching and eating habits, coupled with an analysis of contaminants in fish tissue. Watch a video about this work with interviews here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdcCOt0m1uo. View the final report and fish study results here: