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In this series you’ll hear stories about the health of the river, its place in our local culture and history and the wildlife and the humans who’ve made the river their home. The interviews were gathered by volunteers from the Little Miami River Watershed Network – and they were made into our radio series by WYSO producer Jason Reynolds.

The River Speaks: A Family Affair

Volunteers collect trash and tires from the Little Miami River.
Little Miami Watershed Network
Volunteers collect trash and tires from the Little Miami River.

Adam and Mary Panstingel have been raising their children on the Little Miami River in Bellbrook. They have three sons—Harrison, Sebastian, and Maverick—who are between the ages of 8 and 16. They shared their river stories with Heather Fickie of the Little Miami Watershed Network.

Heather Fickie: What is something you feel like you've learned since you've started going out on the river?

Sebastian: Probably how much wildlife you can observe in just a few hours. If you just stay silent and still, you can see Blue Herons and you can see fish. You can listen to crickets.

Heather: How about you, Harrison? So what's something you feel like you've learned since you've gone out on the river like?

Harrison: Like Sebastian said, if you just sit still, you can see and hear so many different animals. And then there's snake identification, which comes in real handy when you're in the river.

Heather: It does. Knowing the difference between what's dangerous and what just makes you nervous is a good thing to know.

Maverick: What I have learned about the river is that if you see a snake, and then my dad sees it or my mom sees it, you get cookies.

Heather: So if the kids see the snake first, they get cookies?

Adam: Yeah. Because I don’t want to see it!... Something I've learned is if you want to do something, you need to just go do it, because there's never time to go canoeing or fishing. But if you just go do it, all of a sudden there is time. If you really want to go canoeing, but you're busy that week, you just get up early in the morning and you go at 6:00 in the morning instead of 3:00 in the afternoon. If it's important to you, you'll find the time.

Mary: Getting the kids involved with being out in nature at a young age really has gotten to be just a part of who they are. They feel very connected to the river, to the places we go hiking. And being able to experience all of that, they’ve learned a lot and they’ve learned how to get along with each other because that’s a special quality time.

Heather: And you guys have been involved with the river cleanup for a number of years. Tell me something cool or fun that you've experienced when you're out cleaning up the river.

Harrison: I remember Dad and I being in the front of the group right before a rapid, and there was one canoe that was full of stuff, and it flipped. And I remember watching everyone jumping in, trying to get a TV out of the river.

Heather: So, trying to clean up what you already cleaned up.

Maverick: The thing that I realize about river cleanups is that whenever I'm on the river regularly, I see more treasure. And on the river cleanup, I see more tires and bottles and cans and trash.

Adam: I've noticed whenever you do a river cleanup there's a huge amount of teamwork involved, and people don't realize that they are forming bonds with the people that they are cleaning up the river with. And they don't realize that in addition to cleaning up the river, they are showing teamwork and getting closer to someone that they may not have known in the past. And it's a great exercise in general.

Heather: You guys have also had some experience in working with the stream quality monitoring program and checking the quality of the water. What has that been like?

Sebastian: So, what we do to check the water, the water clarity, we get a big clear tube with PVC caps on the end. There's a little door on it and we fill it with water to a certain point and we look to see how clear how clearly we can see. If the water is almost perfectly clear, then we know it. It's very easy to see through.

Harrison: You get to see directly how clean the water is. Usually within the first two tests that we do for each time we go out, you can immediately tell how clean the water is where we study it. So it's a really good way to tell what we're doing and how it's affecting the river.

Mary: The kids have seen from the river cleanups and the water quality monitoring that it has an effect. And the better they're taking care of stuff now, the longer it'll be there to appreciate. They've spread that along to their friends. They've communicated that to other people that we see on the river when we're floating. And it's gotten to be a very personal connection they have with that nature, and they feel responsible for it.