Michigan Map Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project
The Rouge River Project
Bringing the river back to life!
Home Search About the Rouge Project Contact Us

Public Involvement and Education ProgramsBrief SummaryOverview Description of the Public Involvement and Education ProgramsPublic Involvement and Education ReportsPapers and Presentations on the Public Involvement and Education Programs

Overview of the Public Involvement and Education Programs

Shortly after the inception of the Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project (Rouge Project) in 1992, it was clear that a comprehensive public involvement and education program was necessary to support Rouge River restoration activities. A survey of watershed residents determined that while few people viewed the Rouge River as a viable resource because of its pollution, the majority broadly supported and were optimistic about efforts to improve its quality.

This necessitated creating a strong consensus building public involvement program to address the concerns of area residents, educate the community about the effect of their current activities on the watershed and include all stakeholders in the mission to restore the Rouge River. A Rouge River Public Involvement Action Plan was devised in the fall of 1994 based upon the survey.

The goal of the Action Plan was to engage numerous stakeholders, inform them, and hopefully gain their support and encourage them to change their behavior to help achieve and maintain a healthy watershed. The public involvement strategy used the philosophy that communication with Rouge River watershed stakeholders must be continual, consistent, truthful and always two-way. In addition, since many of those surveyed thought the causes of pollution to the Rouge River was from industrial sources, a public education campaign had to explain the impact of storm water and non point source pollution on the river. Finally, the campaign had to explain to everyone their personal responsibility in Rouge River restoration efforts.

Initially, a series of fact sheets and brochures were prepared for the general public and a more technical audience regarding different elements of the Rouge Project. Topics included the Rouge Project, the Watershed, Geographic Information Systems, the Rouge Education Project, Combined Sewer Overflows, etc. Printed materials were distributed with a portable display, provided to local governments to distribute, and incorporated into public information packets for local officials, the general public, libraries, and schools. In addition, the public involvement team was responsible for preparing presentations to local officials, the technical audience and the general public.

The public involvement and education programs have evolved over time to embrace a number of approaches. Strategies were developed, materials were drafted and outreach activities were created to discover what best engaged the general public. The public involvement and education program for the Rouge Project has been very successful in the efforts to engage the residents of the Rouge Watershed in the restoration of the waterway. If additional information is desired, please contact 1 888-223-2363.

Click on the below topics to learn more specific information about our public education and involvement activities:


The Rouge Project has sponsored numerous events to educate stakeholders to implement our strategies and messages. Following is a list of these events.

Water Festival
Co-sponsored by the Wayne County Department of Environment and the University of Michigan-Dearborn, The Rouge River Water Festival is a one day children's environmental education event designed to teach students about the importance of water and the myriad of ways water is used in our daily lives. Presenters and Exhibitors from diverse professional and educational backgrounds provide students with a broad spectrum view of water resources from municipal, agricultural, and industrial uses, to the hydrologic cycle which includes weather, wastewater treatment, soil erosion, wetlands, and wildlife.

Rouge River Connections: Public Education Workshop for Watershed Communities
In October, 1999 the Public Involvement staff presented a workshop for communities and interested non-profit organizations to offer ideas, programs and materials to showcase successful Rouge River Watershed community public education programs as well as initiatives spearheaded by individuals as well as non-profit organizations. In addition to Rouge Project Staff, presenters included: Friends of the Rouge, the National Wildlife Federation, SEMCOG, the City of Troy, the City of Westland, Canton Township, Wayne County, Southeast Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority, the Rouge Education Project, and the Rouge River Water Festival. A presentation was given on the 1999 Rouge River Watershed Public Opinion Survey, as well as demonstrations of the Rouge Products CD and the Images of the Rouge CD.

Newburgh Lake
For two years, the Rouge Project conducted a restoration project at Newburgh Lake, a 105-acre impoundment along the Middle Rouge River in Western Wayne County. The Lake had been accumulating sediments since it was created in the 1930s. These sediments, some containing elevated levels of metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), had substantially diminished the recreational opportunities of the lake and led to fish contamination and a potential human health hazard. The Newburgh Lake Restoration Project removed contaminated fish from the lake, removed approximately 558,000 tons of sediment from the lake, deepened the lake to a minimum of eight feet in most places, created fish habitat and restocked the lake with game fish. During the project, the Public Involvement staff visited all the Livonia public elementary schools in the vicinity of Newburgh Lake to explain to the students what the restoration project was and what the results would be. In addition, limited tours were given to students of the construction activities. The Grand Re-Opening of Newburgh Lake took place in October, 1998 and the elementary school students were asked to participate in the event. A mini-water festival was presented for nearly 200 Livonia elementary school students. They visited displays, participated in hands-on activities, took guided nature walks, rode in paddle boats on Newburgh Lake and some helped restock the lake with game fish. After the festivities, the children held their annual Pumpkin Fest fundraiser at the lake.

Newburgh Lake Triathalon
The PI Team created brochures, designed the logo and tee-shirts and provided other support services for the Newburgh Lake Triathalon which debuted in August, 2000. The Triathalon, which became a duathalon because rain made swimming unsuitable, featured running and biking events around Newburgh Lake. Some 100 athletes participated in the event.

Rouge Rescue/River Day
Held on the first Saturday in June of every year, River Day/Rouge Rescue is the centerpiece event for Friends of the Rouge. In June, 2000, 2,500 citizens joined in the activities at 25 cleanup sites. Media coverage of the annual watershed-wide cleanup has been substantial. In 1998, the cleanup was featured on MTV, potentially reaching millions of young viewers. Click here to learn more about River Day.

Mass Media

To reinforce our strategies and messages, numerous projects were scheduled - many during the weeks around Earth Day and Rouge Rescue.

Watershed Signage
More than 140 new signs are being added to county roadways to mark the boundaries and river crossings of the Rouge River watershed. These signs will help to build continued awareness of the watershed within the counties and local communities. Oakland County has completed putting up its Rouge River signs. This effort was led by the Oakland County Drain Commissioner's Office.

Civic Center Drive, east of Telegraph Road, Southfield
Photo courtesy of Oakland County Drain Commission


Farmington Hills Renaming of Rivers
The City of Farmington Hills, in conjunction with the Rouge River Project, initiated a project to name or rename the waterways within the City of Farmington Hills. The Farmington Hills Beautification Commission believed that there should be a physical and symbolic relationship between the waterways that traverse a community and the community they traverse. The physical relationship allows visual and tangible access to the waterways; the symbolic realtionship-its name-allows community identification and a sense of ownership. The commission believes that this symbolic relationship is so significant that referring to waterways as drains instead of creeks, streams, and rivers, as has been the practice, detracts from their importance, diminishes the relationship between the waterways and the community, and can encourage complacency and even abuse of the resources.

Identification signs are being installed throughout Farmington Hills and neighboring communities within the Rouge River watershed where major roads and waterways intersect. The signs identify both the Rouge River watershed and the name, or new name, of the waterway itself. Not only will the waterways naming project promote stewardship, it will fulfill a public education component of the Federal Clean Water Act. "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value."

Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. President (1901-1909)

For further information call the Farmington Hills Planning Office at (248) 473-9543.



Theater Advertising
One of the first activities to be implemented was theater advertising. The use of paid advertisements on movie theater screens prior to showing the feature film has become quite common across the nation. Three public service announcements were developed for the campaign. The first promoted Rouge Rescue, which is the annual clean-up of the Rouge River sponsored by Friends of the Rouge, a local grassroots organization that promotes stewardship of the river. The second featured a Great Blue Heron as an example of wildlife that lives along the Rouge River. Advertisers get three exposures during every ten-minute period, so the Rouge Rescue ad was shown twice and the other was shown once. After Rouge Rescue was held on June 1, 1996, another advertisement featuring "Rouge Friendly" household practices replaced the Rouge Rescue advertisement. During summer, the advertisements were shown in only one theater complex.

A Local Newspaper Insert and Guest Columns
The Observer & Eccentric Newspapers, a chain of 15 community newspapers in Oakland and Wayne counties, published a 12-page insert in 1986 when the Rouge River was raising public concern. The insert told the story of the Rouge River's past, present, and hoped-for future. The Rouge Project PI team approached the Observer & Eccentric about publishing a "10 years later" insert highlighting the activities occurring in the watershed. The insert, entitled "Changing Currents," was published on May 19, 1996 and distributed to 160,000 subscribers of the 12 Observer & Eccentric newspapers in the watershed.

The publication date prior to Rouge Rescue worked very well at capturing the public's attention during a time when the river was once again in the news and on the public's mind. In addition, because the insert was so successful, the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers agreed to feature guest columnists writing about the Rouge River on a monthly basis. Click on the following titles to see these articles:

EPA Watershed Progress: Rouge River
In 1996, the PI Team was asked to write a case study of the Rouge River for publication by the EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds. The four-page brochure discussed the Rouge River system, its stresses, sources of pollution, strategy to clean it up and measures of success. The publication was distributed at the Watershed '96 Conference in Baltimore, Md. by the EPA and was distributed locally by the Rouge Program Office.

Restaurant Placemats
The PI Team also saw a need to reach watershed residents with methods not previously utilized. One of these methods was to develop a placemat that restaurants could use during the week prior to Earth Day. The placemat would feature an attractive design and would contain "Rouge-Friendly" information on the back of the placemat. Several restaurants in a targeted area of the Rouge River watershed were approached with the idea and sufficient interest was shown to warrant development of the idea. The graphic that was used came from a poster submitted by a fourth grade student for a contest sponsored by Friends of the Rouge. Distribution of the placemats was accomplished by calling restaurants to determine if they used placemats. A member of the PI Team visited interested restaurants and presented the placemat along with information about the Rouge Project. Fourteen restaurants agreed to use the placemats for up to one month. A total of 41,000 placemats were distributed.

Media Tour
To spark media interest in the Rouge Project, a media tour was planned for Spring, 1996. The tour would also include high-school journalists from schools participating in the Rouge Education Project, a water quality testing program sponsored by Friends of the Rouge. The tour took place on May 9, 1996 - the same day as the Rouge Education Project's annual sampling event. On that date, over 100 participating schools were out sampling the Rouge River, which provided a good backdrop for tour stops as well as the opportunity for reporters to interview students and teachers about their activities. The Rouge River media tour generated articles, stories, and interviews that spanned the entire summer. Media members who were invited, but did not attend, ran stories and articles throughout the summer.

Rouge Project Video
The Public Involvement staff wrote the script, picked out shooting locations and edited the tape for "Reclaiming the Rouge: A Partnership in Restoration and Preservation. This 10-minute video was produced by the Rouge Project in Spring, 2000 to describe the Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project and to highlight the many successes throughout the Rouge River Watershed. Featured projects included educational projects in Salem Township, downspout disconnection in Livonia, stream bank restoration in Dearborn, the construction of combined sewer overflow retention basins in Oakland and Wayne Counties, Friends of the Rouge and many other projects and programs.

Presentations and Displays

Watershed Awareness/Our Actions Affect the Rouge Display
This portable display titled "Our Actions Affect the Rouge," features a map of the Rouge River watershed with community boundaries and has been used a variety of community events throughout the watershed to raise awareness of the general public.

The colorful display is set out with brochures, maps, magnets and other materials selected with the community and audience in mind. The display has been systematically placed in visible locations throughout the watershed. Through the Speaker's Bureau, sections of the display and brochures are presented to civic groups on a request basis. In the 12 months from January-December 1997, the display was set up at over 40 community events, ranging from the Detroit Yard and Garden Fair to the Michigan Petroleum Association conference and the Southfield Fishing Derby.

At almost all of these events, a staff person or volunteer was available to greet the public and help them find their "watershed home." Through the 1997 program outreach, an estimated 25,000 people of all ages have learned about their watershed homes through some interaction with the display and an additional 30,000 people have made a connection with the Rouge River by briefly observing the display.

Spinoffs from the display outreach have been numerous:

  • Staff and volunteers have gained experience in communicating with a wide range of citizens about citizen responsibility for Rouge River water quality;
  • Networking and communication with other citizen-based organizations has been strengthened;
  • Media One and MTV became aware of the Rouge Project - leading to a substantial commitment to help promote Rouge Rescue in 1998;
  • Teachers have seen the display and have incorporated additional water quality materials into their lesson plans;
  • Some municipalities have organized their own displays, using Rouge Program Office materials, and,
  • Redford Township, Livonia and other municipalities have used the display and brochures for their own civic events.

Community Outreach
One important public involvement tool is attendance at community events. PI Staff attended these events with a colorful Rouge display and handouts including, magnets, activity books, brochures, and posters. It was a good way to get the word out about Rouge River restoration efforts and to distribute information about the Rouge River. For instance, between the summer of 1997 and the end of 1998, PI Staff attended community events including fairs, parades, childrens' activities and senior citizen events and made an estimated 30,000 contacts with watershed residents.

Speakers Bureau
A standard presentation and script were developed by consensus with Friends of the Rouge and the Rouge Remedial Action Plan Advisory Council. All three groups used the same script and delivered a consistent message.

Other Presentations
In addition, the public involvement team was responsible for preparing presentations to local officials, the technical audience, and the general public. Presentations include:

  • Michigan Chapter, Water Environment Federation
  • Engineering Society of Detroit
  • Clinton River Watershed Council
  • Friends of the Rouge Student Congress
  • Westland Rotary Club
  • Areawide Water Quality Board
  • Waste Reduction Workshop

Strategies and Messages

During the early stages of the Rouge Project, strategies were developed, materials were drafted and outreach activities were created to discover what best engaged the general public Rouge River restoration messages included:

  • Use your head , you live in a watershed;
  • Storm drains aren't garbage cans;
  • When it comes to pollution, every home is waterfront property;
  • Everyone is part of the problem and needs to be part of the solution, and,
  • Simple changes can make big differences.

To learn more about how the Rouge Project worked on strategies and messages for public outreach, read the following presentations, Getting the Word Out: How to Educate a Watershed, presented at 1996 EPA Nonpoint Source Pollution Information/Education Programs Workshop and Taking Root: Sowing and Harvesting the Seeds of Public Involvement and Education, presented at the 1998 Urban Retrofit Conference.


Stewardship opportunities were also successfully implemented including, the Rouge Friendly Neighborhood Program and The Rouge Friendly Business Program (Now, the River Friendly Partners Program). Also, Friends of the Rouge programs, such as Storm Drain Stenciling, Rouge Rescue/River Day, the Rouge Education Project, and the Frog and Toad Survey, and other community pollution prevention initiatives funded by the Rouge Program Office.

The Rouge Friendly Neighborhood Program
This pollution prevention program was piloted starting in 1995 over a two-year period in watershed neighborhoods in three distinctly different areas of the watershed to promote education, river stewardship, and storm drain stenciling activities. All neighborhoods were surveyed to determine the level of knowledge existing about water quality issues, lawn care maintenance and pollution prevention practices. The results were used to fashion a neighborhood program for each area. All three neighborhoods received Rouge Friendly brochures, newsletter articles and other materials.

The Rouge Friendly Neighborhood Program was designed to be carried out by responsible neighborhood organizations. Potential requirements were:

  1. The group participating in the program must have a defined area or neighborhood.
  2. The group would participate in the Friends of the Rouge RiverWatch Program. The river system need not pass directly through the neighborhood for participation. A segment could be identified for the group by Friends of the Rouge.
  3. The group would also participate in the Friends of the Rouge Storm Drain Stenciling Program. The stenciling of storm drains should include, but is not limited to, all the storm drains within their designated neighborhood area.
  4. The group should actively participate and/or encourage proper household hazardous waste management. This could occur through the following methods:
    • Reduced purchasing of hazardous house chemicals;
    • Proper use of household hazardous chemicals;
    • Proper disposal of hazardous household chemicals, and,
    • Use of less toxic alternatives to household hazardous chemicals
    (The group can accomplish this requirement by distributing information concerning proper household hazardous waste management to their designated neighborhood.)
  5. The group would facilitate in the education of residents regarding non-point source pollution. Information would be provided by the Rouge Project Team for distribution to the designated neighborhoods.
  6. Submittal of semi-annual reports discussing the activities that have been taking place could be a requirement to maintain Rouge Friendly Neighborhood status.

Three neighborhoods representing different areas of the watershed were chosen as pilots for the Rouge Friendly Neighborhood Program. They were the Brightmoor area of Detroit, an older, developed area of the watershed along the Main Branch of the Rouge River; Golfview Manor subdivision in Dearborn Heights, a newer subdivision along the Middle Branch of the Rouge River and West Bloomfield Place subdivision in West Bloomfield Township, a developing area along the Upper Branch of the Rouge River.

These three pilots represented communities with diverse demographics and Rouge River concerns. The Brightmoor neighborhood was a deteriorating area with strong community activism regarding neighborhood problems and concerns. The neighborhood also showed strong stewardship for the Rouge River, which served as a western boundary to the neighborhood and flowed through a nearby park. Golfview Manor in Dearborn Heights was a more upscale, manicured neighborhood that was also very active through its subdivision association, but didn't feel a real connection to the River. West Bloomfield Place in West Bloomfield Township was an upper income, less urban area bounded by a wetland.

Meetings were held with a core group of representatives from each neighborhood to discuss what the program was; what the expected outcomes were, and to garner support from the neighborhoods leadership.

The residents of all three pilot areas were sent surveys, distributed by mail or door-to-door to gauge their knowledge of Rouge River water quality; storm water issues and household hazardous waste disposal. In addition, respondents were asked for demographic information. The survey information was used to determine what the Rouge Friendly Neighborhood Program should focus on in each particular neighborhood.

Educational materials that had been developed about storm water pollution, household hazardous waste and its disposal and watershed awareness were reviewed by each group. Each core group helped develop the particular program that would be implemented in their neighborhood, because Rouge Project staff knew that no program would be a success without the core groups support and endorsement. These core group members were relied on to explain the program at neighborhood meetings. For more information, click on Public Involvement Programs that Support Water Quality Management.

The Rouge Friendly Business Program
The Rouge Friendly Business Program was developed as a partnership between Wayne County, local government and the business community to restore and protect the Rouge River. To accomplish this goal, information and assistance is provided to small business owners to teach them how they can positively affect the water quality of the Rouge River by changing some of their everyday practices.

The education process is not about major contaminants, but about those things that slip the mind, such as keeping the dumpster lid closed and covering materials stored outdoors. These simple actions can affect water quality because they stop pollutants from entering the storm system.

As an incentive to participate, Wayne County embraced the concept that businesses in the watershed that demonstrate stewardship and a strong environmental ethic should be recognized by the community at large for their voluntary participation. As such these businesses should enjoy greater name recognition through the efforts of the local and regional media as well as specific program materials that identify the business as Rouge Friendly.

The Rouge River watershed has approximately 42,000 businesses in its 48 communities and three counties. To design program materials that would have the highest impact, three criteria were developed to target business types. They are:

  • The business has a high incidence of illicit connections to storm drains,
  • The business conducts a significant number of pollutant generating activities outdoors, and
  • The business is found in large numbers in the watershed.

Using this criteria, six types of businesses were selected and specific activities identified. They are:

  • Vehicle Service Industry
  • Food producers, grocers and eating establishments
  • Metal Machining
  • Earth Disturbing Construction
  • Remodeling and Repair Contractors
  • General Business

Pollution control criteria were established for each activity. These criteria were used to create a self-assessment form to be used by a business owner to evaluate how Rouge Friendly their businesses are. Best Management Practices (BMPs) were written that correspond to each activity and this information was put into a booklet along with a self-assessment form for distribution.

Representatives of various trade organizations were invited to participate in a Vehicle Service Industry Roundtable. The roundtable was asked to review and comment on the educational materials, the self-assessment form, the BMPs and the best way to conduct program outreach. Rouge Project staff sought to engage businesses in an ongoing dialogue to determine what approach would work best with a secondary goal of how to get businesses to participate.

Feedback from this group resulted in a name change from the Clean Business Program to the Rouge Friendly Business Program. This was not a quick process as it took approximately six months of meetings to 1) form a Vehicle Service Industry roundtable, 2) explain the purpose of the Rouge Friendly Business Program, and, 3) refine the program and products. The Rouge Friendly Business Program elements were finalized as follows:

  • Self-assessment form and action plan
  • Best Management Practices
  • Site Visits by technical staff
  • Recognition materials for participating businesses (stickers and magnets)
  • Business pledge and newspaper recognition

After these materials were finalized, Wayne County and Rouge Project staff promoted the Rouge Friendly Business on a pilot basis and recruited businesses through the following mechanisms:

  • Business Roundtable contacts
  • Letter and telephone contacts
  • Door to door contact with businesses
  • Contact through homeowner/neighborhood associations
  • Integration of Business and Residential Programs

By the end of the pilot period, the Wayne County Department of Environment had recognized 20 businesses as Rouge Friendly. For more information on the River Friendly Partner's Program click here.

Friends of the Rouge
Friends of the Rouge, as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has steadily expanded and strengthened the Board of Directors, membership base, and programs available to interested citizens. Although working out of a small office, activities sponsored by Friends of the Rouge reach thousands of citizens who want to participate directly in river restoration and protection activities. Recognizing the importance of an independent citizen organization, Friends of the Rouge programs have been strategically supported by Wayne County and the Rouge Program Office. Examples of particularly important activities include the following:

  • Rouge Education Project (REP): The school-based water quality monitoring project allows schools to use the Rouge as a living laboratory. Students learn chemical, biological and physical assessment methods. Over 90 schools have participated in recent years. Nearly 100 schools and over 135 classrooms participated in the REP in 1998. Twenty of the schools joined the project in 1997-98, some additional schools are participating. Through the REP, elementary, middle and high school classes, across disciplines, take samples of Rouge River water and perform chemical, biological and physical analyses. In 1997, a web site was created and participating schools are able to share Rouge water quality data via the Internet. Students create journals, posters, displays, skits and videos about their experiences to exhibit during the annual Student Congress. To learn more about the Rouge Education Project click here. Also, a paper was written on the project called, Watershed Education & Watershed Management: Using the River as an Interdisciplinary Tool.
  • Rouge Rescue/River Day: Held on the first Saturday in June of every year, River Day/Rouge Rescue is the centerpiece event for Friends of the Rouge. In June, 2000, 2,500 citizens joined in the activities at 25 cleanup sites. Media coverage of the annual watershed-wide cleanup has been substantial. In 1998, the cleanup was featured on MTV, potentially reaching millions of young viewers. Click here to learn more about River Day.
  • Workshop on Planting for Streambank Stabilization: In cooperation with the Wayne County Soil Conservation District and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, a participatory workshop on stream stabilization techniques was conducted in Eliza Howell Park in Detroit.
  • Rouge RiverWatch, Stream Monitoring, and Storm Drain Stenciling: Friends of the Rouge coordinates a network of citizens who keep watch on the section of the Rouge River located "close to home." Volunteers adopt" sections of their local stream, monitor the stream for pollution, and report problems to Friends of the Rouge and appropriate government offices. Most importantly, participants help to identify opportunities for streambank restoration and improvement. When scouts, volunteer clubs, businesses, and school groups call with an offer to volunteer, Friends of the Rouge links them with "on-the-ground" projects that need to be carried out. Of particular note is the interest of Ford Motor Company employees in hands-on community projects related to restoration of the Rouge River.
  • Frog and Toad Survey: In 1998, Friends of the Rouge initiated a frog and toad survey in the Middle 1 subwatershed. Over 100 citizens (twice the anticipated number) responded to the publicity outreach and attended training workshops. In 2000 and 2001, the Frog and Toad Survey was offered watershed-wide. The strong positive response from the public is viewed as a reflection of the growing recognition that the habitat of the Rouge River is important for the future of watershed communities. Newspaper publicity surrounding the survey has also helped raise watershed awareness.
  • Spring Bug Hunt: Twice a year, teams of volunteers visit sites throughout the headwaters of the watershed and search for mayflies, stoneflies and other aquatic invertebrates in the Rouge River. The presence or absence of these streambed creatures reflects the quality of the water and habitat. Data are used to track changes in the river quality over time. May 2002 Bug Hunt Results
  • Rouge River Stewards: In March 1998, the first River Stewards "class" was convened at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn Heights. A group of about 24 citizens volunteered their time to earn their "River Stewards" name badges. Modeled after master composter programs now operating in several areas of the Watershed, River Stewards invites citizens with a high level of commitment and knowledge to participate in self-initiated community education projects. River Stewards participate in training workshops, complete take home assignments and readings, and complete a community action plan for Rouge River education. Through volunteer initiatives, they put their commitment and knowledge to action and then share the results. As the corps of trained River Stewards expands, it is hoped that River Steward volunteers will be an education resource for municipalities and civic associations. It is also hoped that River Stewards volunteers, in cooperation with Friends of the Rouge board members, will help keep government officials at all levels informed about river protection issues and opportunities.

The impact of Friends of the Rouge activities has always depended on the involvement and support of citizens and municipal officials. In an effort to assist municipalities in implementing their own public education plans, Friends of the Rouge has conducted the Rouge Education Project, workshops, adopt-a-stream training, volunteer monitoring of streams and storm sewer outlets, storm drain stenciling and other activities for a reasonable cost.

Rouge River Partnerships

Partnerships were created to better spread the word about the Rouge River restoration. Following is a short list of these efforts.

Between 1995-97, numerous partnerships were formed with many identified stakeholder groups in order to add momentum to the messages and products created by the Rouge PI Team Those partnerships included:

  • Watershed townships and cities that have begun to use the Rouge display at their events.
  • A resource recovery authority that has coupled its backyard composting/yard waste reduction message with Rouge River Watershed water quality information and pollution prevention techniques.
  • Neighborhood organizations who distribute Rouge materials and spearhead stewardship activities for their section of the Rouge.
  • The Rouge River Remedial Action Plan Advisory Council, which is comprised of representatives from local government, business, the general public and non-profit organizations, was a partner in the creation and distribution of a Rouge River Recreational Guide map.
  • The League of Women Voters who awarded a wetlands education fellowship to a member who is a resident of a Rouge Friendly Neighborhood. She has spoken several times locally about the benefits of wetlands and has also made presentations on behalf of the Rouge Project. League of Women Voters have also helped distribute Rouge River educational materials.
  • The Greening of Detroit which co-sponsored an Arbor Day event with the Rouge Project for 200 elementary school children that incorporated a tree planting event with a demonstration of Rouge Friendly tips.
  • Oakland Community College, where an environmental studies teacher made the Rouge River a regular part of her lesson plans. She also gave here students extra credit if they performed volunteer activities relating to Rouge River awareness.

A variety of Rouge River stakeholders who reviewed the Rouge Repair Kit and gave input on topics and content.

Subwatershed Activities

Three subwatersheds were selected for pilot project education and planning efforts. The three pilot subwatersheds were:

  • Upper 2 Subwatershed-Bell Branch and Tarabusi Creek Subwatershed (Portions of Livonia, Farmington Hills, Farmington, Novi, Redford Township, and, Northville Township).
  • Middle 1 Subwatershed - headwaters of the Middle Rouge River (Novi, Northville, Northville Township, Salem Township, Plymouth Township, and, Novi Township)
  • Middle 3 Subwatershed (Canton Township, Westland, Garden City, Dearborn Heights)

The pilot subwatersheds were selected because they represented varied land and water characteristics. The Middle 3 is older, urban, with little or no room to grow; the Upper 2 represented developing suburban communities, and the Middle 1 is a partly rural headwaters area.

The following activities were focused on these three subwatersheds:

  • Distribution of Rouge River Watershed placemats: Nearly 100,000 placemats were set out in over 20 restaurants in the three pilot subwatersheds.
  • The "Our Actions" display has been used extensively at community events in these watersheds.
  • Outreach to schools through posters and activity books. During 1997, 1400 copies of the Rouge wildlife poster and 6000 activity books were distributed.
  • Storm drain stenciling has been promoted and carried out in cooperation with civic organizations.

The control of storm water emerged as a major component in the restoration of the Rouge River. At the heart of the storm water management approach being used in the Rouge Watershed is the Michigan General Storm Water Permit. This voluntary permit establishes the process for developing watershed management plans to address the control of storm water and other sources of pollution. Under the permit, communities were required to develop an illicit discharge elimination program and a public education plan. The public education plan had to include activities that addressed the following required elements:

  1. Encouragement of public reporting of the presence of illicit discharges or improper disposal of materials into the applicant's separate storm water drainage;
  2. Education of the public on the availability, location, and requirements of facilities for disposal or drop-off of household hazardous wastes, travel trailer sanitary wastes, chemicals, grass clippings, leaf litter, animal wastes and motor vehicle fluids;
  3. Education of the public regarding acceptable application and disposal of pesticides and fertilizers;
  4. Education of the public concerning preferred cleaning materials and procedures for residential car washing;
  5. Education of the public concerning the ultimate discharge point and potential impacts from pollutants from the separate storm water drainage system serving their place of residence;
  6. Education of the public about their responsibility and stewardship in their watershed, and,
  7. Education of the public concerning management of riparian lands to protect water quality.

From 1998 on, much of the Rouge Project public involvement activities supported the communities as they applied for coverage under the general permit and to support their public education activities.

Guidance for Preparing a Public Education Plan and Public Education Program for Storm Water Management in the Rouge River Watershed
Both documents were developed for Rouge River communities interested in applying for a general permit using recommendations from the Rouge Project staff and municipalities with substantial public education experience.

Guidance for Preparing a Public Education Plan lists a step-by-step program for developing a public education plan and discussed such topics as: Planning a Successful Public Education Program; Setting Objective for Public Education; Involvement of Stakeholders in Plan Development, etc.

Public Education Program for Storm Water Management summarizes the education strategies and projects that were implemented by the Rouge Project and its partners in 1997-98. The report was developed, in part, to help inform local officials about the scope of public education and involvement activities on a watershed and subwatershed level which would help support local municipal efforts.

Public Information and Education Tool Kit for the Rouge River Watershed
This bound document was developed for Rouge River Watershed communities to illustrate what Rouge Project public education materials and programs could be used to fulfill each required element of the public education plan for a general storm water permit

Public Participation Meetings
As required by the general permit, the communities, through their Subwatershed Advisory Group had to develop an 18-month (2000-2001) public participation plan detailing how the public could participate in the development of their subwatershed management plan. Each of the seven subwatershed groups developed ways to allow the public to participate. Some subwatersheds chose to have regular public meetings to update the public on the planning process, the elements of the plan, and then, the goals and objectives of the plan. Other subwatersheds chose to allow the communities within that subwatershed to carry out their own public participation. Still other subwatersheds created commissions comprised of different stakeholders to review and comment on that subwatershed's plan. The Public Involvement staff provided support to many of these initiatives, including facilitating public meetings and creating displays, flyers, informational brochures and packets.



Watershed-Wide 1994 Public Opinion Survey
Shortly after the inception of the Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project (Rouge Project) in 1992, it was clear that a comprehensive public involvement and education program was necessary to support Rouge River restoration activities. A survey of watershed residents determined that while few people viewed the Rouge River as a viable resource because of its pollution, the majority broadly supported and were optimistic about efforts to improve its quality.

Watershed-Wide 1999 Public Opinion Survey
As a follow-up to the 1994 survey, in September, 1999, Public Sector Consultants, (PSC), Inc. interviewed 400 residents of the Rouge River Watershed, 100 in each of the four geographic regions of the watershed.

  • Region 1 Northern headwaters (central Oakland County)
  • Region 2 Western headwaters (western Wayne County, west of Haggerty Road and north of Van Born Road, and northern Washtenaw County
  • Region 3 Middle river (Wayne County south of Eight Mile Road, east of Haggerty Road, north of Van Born Road, and west of Detroit; includes western half of Dearborn)
  • Region 4 Downriver (City of Detroit, eastern half of Dearborn, cities of Melvindale and River Rouge, and portions of Allen Park)

The survey participants were randomly selected. The intent of the survey was to ascertain residents' current attitudes and knowledge about the Rouge River and its watershed; explore changes in attitudes and knowledge that have occurred since a similar survey was conducted in 1993, and, help determine public priorities for planned river restoration efforts. Click here to view the survey.

SOCWA Rouge River Watershed Survey
In 1999 the Southeast Oakland County Water Authority sent out a survey to 2,000 residents in the Main 1-2 subwatershed communities of Troy, Birmingham, Beverly Hills, Lathrup Village and Southfield. Select results revealed that 86.8% of respondents felt that the water quality of local rivers, streams and lakes in their community was important or extremely important and 50.2% of the respondents felt that their communities should be doing more about water quality.

Written Materials

Initially, a series of fact sheets and brochures were prepared for the general public and a more technical audience regarding different elements of the Rouge Project. Topics included the Rouge Project, the Watershed, Geographic Information Systems, the Rouge Education Project, Combined Sewer Overflows, etc. Printed materials were distributed with a portable display, provided to local governments to distribute, and incorporated into public information packets for local officials, the general public, libraries, and schools.

Rouge River Activity Book
The Rouge Project produced a 12-page activity book for elementary students. The book contains puzzles, word searches, crossword puzzles, connect the dot pictures and many other activities that entertain while delivering a message about nonpoint source pollution and the Rouge River. In the first six months after publication, over 10,000 books were distributed. In addition, a targeted mailing to watershed schools and teachers resulted in several thousand more activity books being distributed throughout the watershed.

To assist with the storm drain stenciling education process a bright blue fish-shaped doorhanger was created as a leave-behind information piece for neighborhood residents. The front of the fish says "I think that I saw a fish on my street," while the back says "You did see a fish(a painted one at least)." The back also contains an explanation of the storm drain stenciling program and lists actions citizens can take to help protect water quality. The bright color, distinctive shape and catchy phrase were all included to grab residents' attention and hopefully get them to read the doorhanger.

Combined Sewer Overflow Brochure
When the Rouge Project began, more than 50% of the Rouge River's water quality problems were caused by combined sewer overflows (CSOs). CSOs are products of a sewer system in which sanitary and storm sewers are joined. During dry weather conditions, the sewers flow to the wastewater treatment plant. However, during wet weather, the influx of rainwater overloads the system and causes the sewer to discharge to the river. This discharge carries rainwater and its associated pollutants along with raw sewage into the river. The early days of the Rouge Project were focused on alleviating the current loads of sewage and storm water flowing to CSOs and the construction of 11 demonstration CSO retention basins and separated sewer projects in several watershed communities. In cooperation with the CSO communities, the Rouge Project developed a brochure to educate residents about CSOs and explain the construction of retention treatment basins. The brochure explains what CSOs are and how the Rouge Project and local communities are working to alleviate the problem.

The brochure clearly explains the nature of the problem with CSOs in an easy-to-understand manner. By developing it with CSO communities, the PI team ensured that the information was applicable to all of the CSO communities and that they were aware of the information. Over 30,000 CSO brochures were distributed by CSO communities in 1996 by direct mail to their residents.

Rouge News and Views Newsletter
The Rouge Project published a quarterly newsletter to inform interested persons about the activities of the Rouge Project. The newsletter was a 4-page, 2-color publication with a circulation of more than 3,000.

Rouge Repair Kit
The Rouge Repair Kit, published in 1998, is a citizen's guide to restoring and protecting the Rouge River. The 42-page guide offers valuable tips on healthy lawn and garden practices, landscaping design and maintenance, soil erosion, pet care and animal waste, car care, household hazardous waste, home improvement, septic system maintenance and downspout disconnection. It also listed helpful references and phone numbers. The booklet was reviewed by area watershed councils, county officials, technical staff, community representatives and grassroot organizations. To date, thousands of Repair Kits have been distributed to schools, at community events and to the general public.

Rouge River Watershed Public Recreation Areas And Activities Map And Index
In an effort to educate the public about the vast recreational resources available in the Rouge River Watershed, a map was designed for communities to distribute. The effort was spearheaded by the Rouge Project, the Friends of the Rouge, SEMCOG, the Rouge River Remedial Action Plan Advisory Committee, Oakland County, Wayne County, Washtenaw County, local communities and educators. While the map was being finalized, placemats were created using the map. Nearly 65,000 placemats were distributed to restaurants around the watershed. The recreational map was initially distributed by 13 communities and has been a popular item for Rouge River Watershed communities ever since.

Rouge River Activity Book and Poster Distribution
One way the Public Involvement Staff felt it could help the watershed communities to educate the public was to offer activity books and posters to watershed schools.. During the 1997-98 school year, letters and order forms were sent to hundreds of schools in the Rouge River Watershed offering activity books and watershed posters. Between October 1997- August 1998, 16,000 activity books and 5,000 posters were distributed to 140 watershed schools.

Rouge Products CD and Images of the Rouge CD
The Rouge Product CD was developed to allow the Rouge River Watershed communities to print Rouge educational materials, such as the Rouge Activity Book, fact sheets and brochures. The Images of the Rouge CD offers dozens of Rouge images such as wildlife, recreational photos, combined sewer overflow retention basins, Rouge-Friendly activities, Newburgh Lake and other images that can be used in presentations, publications and other printed materials. These CDs were unveiled at "Rouge River Connections: A Public Education Workshop for Watershed Communities."

Last Updated: 7/3/02

Please address all comments and suggestions about the contents of this Web page to rougeweb@co.wayne.mi.us.

The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project is funded, in part, by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Grants #XP995743-01, -02, -03, -04, -05, -06, -07 and C-264000-01.