By Mike Templeton

On Friday May 3, from 6:30-8:30 pm, “Living Stream: A Creative Creekside Journey” will take place on the Mill Creek trail that runs through South Cumminsville and Camp Washington to celebrate the ongoing recovery of the Mill Creek and its historical importance to Greater Cincinnati. The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition, thanks to Core member Sherry Cook Stanforth and the Place Keeper’s group of talented young adults, has teamed up the Mill Creek Alliance to bring you this unique event.

As some may already know, these neighborhoods are central to the life of urban Appalachians, and the Mill Creek has long held a special place in the lives of urban Appalachians, as migrants often settled in neighborhoods along its banks. “Living Stream: A Creative Creekside Journey” will bring together creative and expressive arts and ecology to enliven the trail along the Mill Creek with interactive stations for creative expression. You are invited to RSVP to the event at this link: April 26 is the requested date by which to RSVP.

The historic Mill Creek was long a symbol and symptom of environmental degradation due to misuse by industry; ironically, the same industry that brought urban Appalachians to the communities surrounding it. The Mill Creek Alliance, with the help of volunteers, has brought the Mill Creek back from its once forgotten state. For those who may not be aware, there is a beautiful trail that runs along the banks of the Mill Creek through South Cumminsville (Northside) and Camp Washington. Where the Mill Creek was once a polluted and nearly dead natural waterway hidden behind brambles and industrial waste, there is now a magnificent Ohio waterway that supports wildlife. The Mill Creek Trail allows us to walk, run, bike, or just meander by the Mill Creek and enjoy the natural beauty through which is runs.

Sherry Cook Stanforth says, “This waterway I’d heard about for most of my life now represented a powerful opportunity to collaborate on programs that creatively blended the stories of natural ecosystems and Cincinnati’s Urban Appalachian settlement heritage.” It was this basic premise that led Stanforth to bring her work with the Place Keepers together with the work of the Mill Creek Alliance.

As Stanforth makes clear, “Expressive arts and the ecological sciences are not on different ‘sides’ of knowledge…our efforts reflect a belief very similar to how a healthier ecosystem might work — different parts operating in balance to sustain a whole living system.” Indeed, one could make a case that the idea that the sciences and the arts are separate endeavors is what led to some of our contemporary issues and problems. “Living Stream: A Creative Creekside Journey” seeks to reconcile the arts and the sciences toward exploration and discovery.

UACC’s Sherry Cook Stanforth has previously worked with members of the Mill Creek Alliance who have been extremely enthusiastic about working with her young artists from the Place Keepers Project. As Stanforth explains: “Johnny Dwyer (MCA Education and Outreach Coordinator) and Bennett Kottler (MCA Restoration Project Director) showed great support for involving UACC apprentices and colleagues in clean up and canoeing events.” From these collaborations, it was not a stretch to begin building this event. Stanforth began working with these same people to start developing ideas that would bring their collaborations to the public: “Johnny Dwyer and I connected at the beginning of the year to begin designing a memorable evening journey along the Mill Creek trail that runs along the Camp Washington/South Cumminsville stretch, an area of special historical importance to UACC.” From this, the “Living Stream: A Creative Creekside Journey” became a reality.

The event really just invites people to walk along the Mill Creek and experience both the natural waterway and the creative stations they have placed along the way. Stanforth said that “people who come down to walk this stretch of trail can expect a creative creekside experience in their encounters, and all are invited to wander freely, as you wish.” Creative stations along the walk will include folk music, live demonstrations of ecological work, foragers and a tasting table, and of course all manner of creative arts projects, from photography to poetry, including the opportunity to share a story as part of UACC’s Kith and Kin Story Gathering Project.

“Living Stream: A Creative Creekside Journey” is a genuinely unique event in which the history of Cincinnati, ecological science, and the arts are joined into one event that celebrates something so crucial to the cultural life of greater Cincinnati. Stanforth told me, “Living Stream is a simple and wonderful way to spend the evening with friends and family across generations. Local educators and community leaders will also find unique opportunities and resources related to the expressive arts, Appalachian history/culture, and dynamic ecology and science content. This is a small seed we’re planting, and we hope this idea will grow over time.”

Sherry Cook Stanforth really summed things up for me when she explained, “Walking this trail with friends and family inspires a special kind of relaxation, observation, conversation, and reflection that cannot be replaced by learning modules, homework, or Google searches.” I believe that with this we can get a sense of just how important this kind of work is to our continued existence on this delicate but resilient planet. Nothing is going to take the place of living breathing experience, the curiosity of the scientist, and the creative impulses of the artist.  

The Place Keepers Program is part of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition’s 2024 Arts & Culture Educational Outreach Program, developed as part of the long-range planning process that took place in 2023. Other activities include Place Keepers Wide Open Mic & Creative Workshop Series (Virtual, at Roebling Books/Dayton, KY, and an upcoming retreat to be held at the UC Field Center); UACC Arts & Culture Educational Outreach activities; and Appalachian Arts & Cultural Events such as the upcoming Lower Price Hill Appalachian Festival on May 4 at the LPH Sanctuary on St. Michael Street, and a brand-new Fall Showcase. We appreciate the work of our Arts and Cultural Committee, which includes Liz Kurek, Connor Kurek, MoPoetry Phillips, Katie Nichols, Tommy Ballard, Rose Gibson, Claire Sketch, Michael Thompson and more!

“Living Stream: A Creative Creekside Journey” will take place on Friday May 3, from 6:30-8:30 pm. We hope you will join the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition and Mill Creek Alliance in a singular opportunity to celebrate the natural and cultural history of our Mill Creek through this rare combination of creative arts and ecological science, the same collaboration that has brought the Mill Creek from ecological disaster to a once again flourishing feature of the natural landscape of Cincinnati. To participate in Living Stream: A Creative Creekside Journey, please RSVP by April 26 at this link:

More information on the Mill Creek Alliance can be found at this link:

More information on UACC‘s Place Keepers Program can be found Here:


Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He is the author of The Chief of Birds: A Memoir, available from Erratum Press, and Impossible to Believe, forthcoming from Iff Books. Check out his profile in UACC’s Cultural Directory. He lives in West Milton, Ohio with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city and the country snapping photos. She looks up at the grandeur above, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.

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