Clear Creek running through woodlands in the Fall

By Mikael Mulugeta


John Rathbun will serve as the Clear Creek watershed coordinator, which covers Johnson and Iowa County, for the Iowa Watershed Approach.

As watershed coordinator, Rathbun will work with the Clear Creek Watershed Coalition to facilitate watershed planning activities, manage the implementation of flood resiliency conservation projects, and communicate and disseminate information to the public across the watershed to ensure the program’s effectiveness.

Rathbun studied humanities at the University of Iowa and landscape architectural design at Lansing Community College. He lives in Cedar Rapids with his wife and two basset hounds.

We caught up with Rathbun to discuss his new position.


Q: Where did you work before you took this position?

A: Most recently, I worked for the Washington Soil & Water Conservation District as the watershed coordinator for the West Fork Crooked Creek. Prior to that, I worked for the Johnson County SWCD as a district technician and administrative assistant. For the previous thirteen years, I worked for Forever Green Inc. as a landscape designer.


Q: What do you hope to accomplish in this position?

A: First, I hope to help raise awareness about how people can increase flood resiliency in their own back forty or their own back yard. Second, would be to help people implement practices that work for the special circumstances of their land and help them in their operations as well as their downstream neighbors. Third, is to facilitate discussion and understanding between urban and rural folks in the watershed about their connectedness and interdependence, plus the possible opportunities to cooperate. My overall goal is to improve the Clear Creek Watershed for our farmers, landowners, residents and the folks downstream.


Q: How did you hear about the opening and what was appealing about the position?

A: Peer outreach is how I learned about the position. Being able to advocate for and improve our watershed’s resilience to flooding is very appealing to me along with getting out and talking with people about what they can do to help the cause. I really enjoy these types of activities and when we get people involved and actually see projects and practices implemented on the land, my heart sings.


Q: Is there anything you would like to tell the Clear Creek WMA and IWA partners?

A: I am honored to have a role in this project. As the Iowa and Cedar Rivers rose back in 2008, I wondered to myself and others about what could be done upstream to slow rain water and alleviate some of the damage caused by heavy rains and flooding. Some of the people I shared ideas with agreed that there must be something that could be done.  Now we have a chance to affect some real change and that is a great feeling to be a part that change.


Q: What is a hobby of yours?

A: Gardening is one of my favorite hobbies, my wife does the vegetables and I do the landscape.  There is a real satisfaction from cleaning beds, pruning, placing, and planting plants with my wife. As time goes on, we get to see what is working and what plants need their position adjusted or moved to a new home altogether. We incorporate native or at least native originated plants, in our landscape so they are adapted to our soils and climate. They provide habitat for wildlife plus tasty berries for the humans, if we can harvest them before the birds! We plan to create a small prairie planting along our side yard fence once some road construction is complete. This planting will help soak more water into the soil and provide food and habitat for bees and butterflies.


Q: What is the last book you read?

A: “Practicing God’s Presence” by Brother Lawrence.


Q: What’s your favorite food?

A: Whatever my wife and I prepare together, I have a wide range of food that I really enjoy. I am really looking forward to some fresh tomatoes and sweet corn this summer!


Q: Where would you like to go that you’ve never been?

A: This is very difficult for me, I feel like there are so many places that would be great to visit and each place has its special attributes. If I had to pick one place and I had unlimited time and funds, I think it would be Japan, because I believe it is very different from the places I have visited in the past.