December 19, 2003

Presentation explores rivers' history, changes

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Spend just a moment listening to Kay M. Rippelmeyer-Tippy talk about the river, and her concern is evident.

Growing up a half mile from the Mississippi River in Valmeyer in Monroe County, Rippelmeyer-Tippy knows firsthand the importance of rivers for moving agricultural products and other goods. Just as acutely, she understands the conflict between attempts to harness nature and their resulting impact on a fragile ecosystem - - and the results when nature wins.

In a new version of "Riverwork in Southern Illinois: The Paradox of Progress," Rippelmeyer-Tippy explores the history and transformation of the Ohio and Mississippi river systems.

Rippelmeyer-Tippy is an academic advisor in the College of Liberal Arts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She has been researching and writing about Southern Illinois' history since 1980.

The multimedia presentation is available to nonprofit organizations for the next year through the "Road Scholars speakers bureau program" of the Illinois Humanities Council. The cost is $50, with the humanities council picking up the rest of the expenses.

The 45-minute program traces the rivers' uses for 10,000 years through the 1993 Mississippi River flood, which caused millions of dollars in damage and forced the town of Valmeyer to move to higher ground. It includes a look at the gradual change in people's interaction with the rivers and how huge levees now separate the river from communities such as Grand Tower, Golconda and Shawneetown.

The updated program also looks at the influx of gaming boats; an East Moline man who heads Living Lands and Waters, which is an educational center and cleanup and recycling station; and the Cache River Joint Venture Initiative.

The program explores past management of the rivers and the outlook for the future.

"People for thousands of years have had relationships with rivers where they understood - - 'we take care of it, and it takes care of us,' " she said.

Rippelmeyer-Tippy's goal is for "people to get in touch with their rivers again."

"I just hope that people understand that it is a relationship," she said.

The program will be shown at the Audubon Society meeting at 7 p.m., Jan. 26, at the Carbondale Civic Center. The event is free to the public.

Rippelmeyer-Tippy will give the presentations for a year. Plans are then to have the program available on DVD and video through SIUC's Morris Library, she said.

For more information on "Riverwork in Southern Illinois: The Paradox of Progress," contact Kay Marie Rippelmeyer-Tippy at 618/453-3388.

Serving others and participating in outreach efforts are among the goals of "Southern at 150: Building Excellence through Commitment," the blueprint for the University's development by the time it reaches its 150th birthday in 2019.