Montana State University

Volunteers work to improve creek crossing MSU campus

August 15, 2007 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service

Mandeville Creek should enhance the Montana State University campus, according to volunteers who are trying to improve it. (MSU photo by Evelyn Boswell).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN -- The spring creek that runs across the Montana State University campus should be seen as an amenity rather than a ditch.

That's how a large group of volunteers from MSU, Bozeman and Gallatin County feels, says Peter Brown, an MSU graduate student who notes that the stream really does have a name.

Mandeville Creek starts south of campus near 19th Avenue and Goldenstein Lane. It runs behind the Campus Square Theatres, past the Hedges and Roskie residence halls and dips underground near 11th Avenue and College Street. After flowing through a culvert for a few blocks, the creek surfaces north of Main Street, runs past the Bozeman Senior High School and Chief Joseph Middle School, then continues north until joining the East Gallatin River. Along the way, the creek picks up rainwater, gravel, oil, dust, battery acid, paper cups, beer cans, cigarette butts and other debris from parking lots and streets.

"We recognized that a big reason students come to MSU is the surrounding beauty," Brown said. "With a small change, we can bring that beauty on campus."

Clayton Marlow, professor of range sciences, said, "MSU has an opportunity to really do some low-cost, but powerful renovation on that stream and kind of make it a showcase." Marlow has used the stream as a living laboratory to teach students in his riparian ecology and management class and students from Chief Joseph Middle School.

Brown, Marlow and others on the Mandeville Creek Committee plan to post signs identifying the creek's name and its significance. They also want to remove garbage, plant bushes, reinforce stream banks and set up park benches. They want to develop wetlands near parking lots; the wetlands would treat rainwater instead of allowing it to run directly into the creek. They want to allow vegetation to grow along the edge of the stream rather than being mowed. They want to encourage landowners and developers to let the creek meander naturally instead of forcing it to flow in a straight line.

The stream is polluted, but it does contain fish, insects, ducks and muskrats, Brown said. MSU students counted 14 brook trout, ranging from five to 12 inches, in a 100-yard stretch upstream of campus. But they found suckers and dace downstream of campus and Bozeman; both species are considered tolerant of pollution.

Other MSU students found the larvae of leeches, midges and freshwater shrimp called scuds. Marlow said those all live on the bottom of the stream and indicate the presence of "fine organic sediment pollution" from parking lots.

The long list of people who want to improve Mandeville Creek are donating their time, but they hope to receive a grant for water quality tests, Brown said. MSU's student chapter of the American Fisheries Society has taken on the stream as a group project, he added. Among other things, they are encouraging other student groups like the Bioresources Engineering Club to help and more MSU faculty to incorporate the stream into their classes. Besides Marlow, faculty who have already done so are Otto Stein and Joel Cahoon in civil engineering and Bill Pond in plant sciences and plant pathology. Jon Ford with Facilities Services is ensuring that all these projects are easily incorporated into MSU short- and long-term plans.

Brown said he feels lucky that the Mandeville Creek Committee became active just as developers were planning projects on several properties along the stream.

"That will make it more likely that the stream will be treated like a stream," he said.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or