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The Crystal Lake “Walkabout” is an interactive “hands-on” program of science education intended to instill and nurture in young people and adults an awareness of their watershed environment through observational monitoring and environmental exploring. The “Walkabout” is designed primarily for students, but its philosophy applies equally to property owners and visitors. It focuses on what all can do to preserve the integrity of the Crystal Lake Watershed by enhancing community awareness, providing educational experiences, and promoting future environmental improvements. The “Walkabout” is specifically designed for the Crystal Lake Watershed in northwest Lower Michigan and containing the ninth largest inland lake in Michigan, but its structure and philosophy can be extrapolated to other watersheds.

The “Walkabout” expressly targets students, but anyone young of heart and open of mind is welcome to participate as a group or to ponder its philosophy individually. Environmental awareness is developed during a “walk about” selected Interpretive Sites, with environmental professionals providing guidance, or personally in one's special place or mind's eye. It is intended to inspire participants to look at their Watershed from several points of view. At various times in their lives, each participant will be making informed choices on water quality, land use, zoning, septic systems, green belts, sustainable development, education, and watershed management.

The “Walkabout” includes a 36-page Interpretive Manual that is both An Educational Primer for Students and A Reference Handbook for Property Owners and Visitors. It contains Watershed facts, history, a detailed GIS map, and descriptions of the eight Interpretive Sites. It also includes a series of specific issues, such as hydrology, water quality, land use, nonindigenous species, atmospheric deposition, sediment chemistry, lake levels, and watershed management.

The “Walkabout” encompasses a series of Interpretive Sites within the Crystal Lake Watershed, each representing an unique environmental segment: the Lake, tributaries, wetlands, high ridges, sand dunes, Betsie Bay, and Lake Michigan. Hydrology is the unifying theme – how a drop of water might enter, linger, and then pass through the Watershed. The “Walkabout” comprises a field trip to four of the eight Interpretive Sites, selected on a biennial basis, that are interpreted by environmental professionals from the cosponsoring organizations. The “Walkabout” is presented in four, one-hour sessions: in the Fall to 8th grade students, in the Spring to 6th grade students, and in the Summer to the general public. Each participant receives a colorful T-shirt with the multicolor GIS map of the Crystal Lake Watershed and the “Walkabout” Interpretive Manual.

Initiated in 1993, the Crystal Lake “Walkabout” has been offered to more than 1,600 students, residents, and visitors. The prime sponsor is the Crystal Lake Watershed Fund, Inc., a nonprofit organization, that supports citizen initiatives for water quality monitoring, septic system control, sustainable development, and land conservancy through education, for watershed management.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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