Sue Blackall (left) helps more than 1,000 Sparta students get into the field annually, and enjoys the opportunity to provide hands-on training.
By Jamie Vaughan
Local Sparta, Michigan resident, retired Appleview Elementary teacher, and community leader Sue Blackall has been honored by Kent Conservation District and Trout Unlimited with the Conservationist of the Year award.
Sue is an advocate for Sparta’s local water resources in and out of the classroom. While imparting in her students a sense of respect and wonder for their natural environment, Sue also puts those principles to work in the field. Each year, more than 1,000 Sparta students get the opportunity to go outside to their local creeks and forests through activities that Sue organizes.
But Sue isn’t just helping the students gain knowledge of Sparta’s natural resources – she combines their lessons with hands-on service learning, providing students both the knowledge and experience they need to be good stewards of their environment for the rest of their life.
Since 2016, Sue has planned, secured funding for, and restored 20,000 square feet of Nash Creek stream bank with native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers to help improve water quality and provide habitat for native wildlife. In addition to that, she planted a native plant buffer along a waterway behind Sparta Middle School, a sizable rain garden at Appleview Elementary, and an impressive prairie restoration at Sparta High School. Her hopes are that one day Nash Creek, a degraded trout stream, can once again support healthy populations of the cold water fish in the Rogue River.
The Kent Conservation District and Trout Unlimited are so grateful to work with Sue because of her passion, persistence, and vision for a better Rogue River watershed, and the Sparta community is so lucky to have Sue looking out for their local resources and getting their kids outside.
The Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Project is funded by the Frey Foundation, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the Wege Foundation, the Wolverine World Wide Foundation, and the Schrems West Michigan Trout Unlimited.