ENNIS — Tucked away in the beautiful Madison Valley, conservation, art, and energy meet at the O’Dell Creek Restoration Project.
On Thursday morning the project was celebrated with an unveiling of artwork.
The O’Dell Creek Project has been in the works since 2004.
The goal: repair and restore agricultural damage to the land, caused by previous landowners who ditched and straightened out the creek, draining water off the now-restored wetlands.
Good stewardship and passion for conservation brought together an unlikely crew.
One of the leaders, a 4th-generation owner of the Granger Ranches, Jeff Laszlo.
“It’s been a great journey, but it’s also a great example of collaboration and I think in these sort of unusual times we live in,” said Laszlo. “It’s great to be part of something where we’re all working together towards a common goal.”
The project transformed the stream back into its original winding path, spanning 15 miles and creating 700 acres of wetlands.
Before the project, dozens of birds could be found in the area. Now, there are more than 100 different species of birds.
Another partner in the effort, NorthWestern Energy, has contributed $2.9 million dollars to the project.
“It had the three things you need for a successful environmental program. It had a need. It had a lot of deficiencies from an environmental standpoint,” said Mary Gail Sullivan, director of Environment & Lands Permits & Compliance with NorthWestern Energy.
“It had funding. NorthWestern had a re-license obligation and could contribute to the money. And most importantly, it had a willing partner in the landowner.”
NorthWestern Energy commissioned a painting of O’Dell Creek by Monte Dolack, who said he was eager to be a part of the project.
“I was delighted to be able to bring whatever I can to this project, so there’s at least a visual that ideally would sum up what we’re trying to do,” said Dolack.
Proceeds of the sale of prints will be donated to Ennis-area organizations that promote environmental education for kids.
Dolack’s painting will be on display at the Ennis Chamber of Commerce.