Oak Creek Watershed Council
The Oak Creek Watershed Council (OCWC) strives to maintain a standard of excellence for watershed stewardship and to preserve the integrity of Oak Creek and its tributaries for future generations to come. The dedicated individuals that make up this organization have made major strides in establishing a sense of pride in place, empowering locals and visitors alike to take small steps everyday to keep Oak Creek beautiful.
Formerly the Oak Creek Canyon Task Force, the OCWC was organized in 1994 by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality as an informal group of local people interested in the welfare of Oak Creek. It evolved into a community-driven non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization on September 11, 2003.
The organization now has over 400 members at active, contributing and stakeholder levels with a reputation for being a “can-do” organization. The common thread among its membership is not only a passion for protecting the watershed environment, but the quest to educate all members of our watershed community, and visitors, that water controls our destiny and responsibility for its stewardship is shared by each of us.
Membership includes citizen scientists, consultants, hydrologists, geologists, engineers, professionals with varied expertise, and a volunteer task force—Friends of Oak Creek (FOC).
The OCWC partners with all levels of government as well as corporations and other community organizations in its projects and activities, such as the United States Forest Service, Arizona Game and Fish, Coconino County, City of Sedona, Sedona Chamber of Commerce, and the Salt River Project (SRP), to name a few.
The development of the Oak Creek Community Outreach Program (OCCOP) began in early in 2012 Since 2012, volunteers have successfully educated watershed residents and visitors in the proper stewardship of Oak Creek to reduce the concentrations of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria to below state standards. Although not general a health threat in itself, E. coli is used to indicate the possible presence of potentially harmful bacteria and viruses resulting from fecal contamination. E. coli exceedances remain a problem especially where there is concentrated recreation in the Creek.
Our Oak Creek Community Outreach Program is in full swing. The protocols and messages in the plan are supported by various outreach materials, social media campaigns, educational public presentations and regular litter cleanup events along Oak Creek.
The Pet Waste Program officially launched in November 2013 includes the installation of 19 dog waste stations for the City of Sedona, 6 stations for the United States Forest Service, 16 stations for local HOA’s and individual residents. Since the beginning of the program in November 2013, the stations have collected over 6,500 pounds of feces.
The Oak Creek Watershed Council partnered with local Sedona Middle School teachers to develop a two week comprehensive Water Quality Curriculum that details water quality, quantity, and conservation as well as habitat degradation. Part of the curriculum partners with Project WET. The curriculum includes presentation of the Watershed Terrain Model, and a Slide Rock State Park field trip to learn water sampling techniques and to cleanup local trash with over 150 students participating.
In the Summer of 2015, the OCWC launched the third season of the Oak Creek Ambassador Program, employing young adults to patrol the Creek and local community to educate visitors and tourists, hand out educational material and pick up litter and feces.
In 2015, the Phase II Ambassadors picked up over 5,000 pounds of trash of which 2,041 pounds were recycled. This included 478 pounds of dog and human feces and 268 diapers. They also spoke with over 8,200 people in the 15 week program. The Ambassadors give presentations at local festivals, open markets, recreational sites, visitor centers, classrooms and youth groups. In 2014 the Oak Creek Ambassadors created a seventeen minute educational video titled “Loved to Death: The Story of Oak Creek” that has served to inform visitors and locals on responsible recreation.
The Oak Creek Sampling Program this year focuses on ephemeral washes to sample E coli levels of storm water runoff in a Sedona neighborood. We have a team of volunteer storm chasers that go out to various sampling points to gather data during storm events. Our second sampling program focuses on baseline sampling above and below 7 popular recreational sites along Oak Creek. So far our sampling has demonstrated extreme E coli exceedances in this runoff water, which eventually flows into Oak Creek. This important work will help identify places where E coli may be a concern.
The OCWC Book team prepared a 122 page full color Oak Creek Watershed Book titled "Legacy of the Oak Creek Watershed: Preserving our Past, Present and Future." The book details the history, geology, hydrology, ecology, recreation, challenges and opportunities within our watershed. With the combined efforts of over 1,800 volunteer hours, the book was published in December 2014. The book is available for purchase on our website.
Finally, the Midgley Bridge Vault Toilet project was funded by an ADEQ issued grant in partnership with the US Forest Service. The facility opened in May 2014. The project was launched in response to high volumes of litter and refuse disposed by recreationalists during the 2012 Cinco de Mayo weekend at and near Midgley Bridge. This area is highly sensitive due to the shallow depth of the regional aquifer at this recreation site.
Most recently, we have been working on the Settler’s Rest Stormwater Pilot Project (SRSP) which promotes watershed health through the installation of water – slowing landscaping practices. Participating properties learn to implement “green infrastructure” elements such as rain gardens, swales, berms and basins, as well as gutters, rain barrels, and native plants. Individuals interested in learning more about the project can do so on the Oak Creek Watershed Council’s website, www.oakcreekwatershed.org.
The past year, the Oak Creek Watershed Council has devoted itself to education, outreach, boots-on-the ground cleanups, and scientific research to the benefit of Oak Creek and the Oak Creek Watershed. Oak Creek is the thread that weaves together the fabric of our watershed community, as well as being vital to its economic, recreational and natural future. The Oak Creek Watershed Council remains dedicated to maintaining a standard of excellence for watershed stewardship and preserving its integrity.
How to Support
To support the OCWC, please visit our website at www.oakcreekwatershed.org. There you can make a monetary donation, or sign up with our volunteer task force, Friends of Oak Creek!