McKenzie students complete local restoration projects

Earn wages, class credit and experience


August 5, 2021 | View PDF

Ten McKenzie High School students recently completed a Restoration Class in which they had the opportunity to help their local community recover from the Holiday Farm Fire. The grant funded program featured completion of local service projects and watershed education provided by the McKenzie Watershed Council, in partnership with McKenzie High School in sponsoring the class. The McKenzie River Ranger District also supported the program by allowing the student team the opportunity to work on District property near the School.

Justin Demeter, Riparian Specialist and Educational Director for the McKenzie Watershed Council, Jaylee Jordan, McKenzie Special Education Learning Specialist, and Cliff Richardson, retired Science Instructor/Forester/Logger comprised the staff. Guest staff included Lara Colley and Cori Carpenter of McKenzie Watershed Council. Participating McKenzie High students were Dawa Baugh, Spencer Hayes, Thomas Hayes, James LeClaire, Levi Lockard, James Lockard, Cody Morales, Kodan O’Daol, James Shirley, and Rebekah Short. For their efforts in the class, students received a wage, a science credit, and service work experience.

The Restoration team accomplished many project-based and educational goals in the four week, eight hour days class during this July. Educationally, the students learned how to scientifically assess water quality while utilizing water monitoring scientific instruments used currently in the professional field.

Students were introduced to many riparian and upland plant species and methods to identify and key out genera and species. They also learned about general riparian ecology including how stream biology is affected by human and natural input, including devastating fire and erosion events.

Students were introduced to fish/reptile/amphibian identification associated with our local streams and allowed to search and view some of those species through a snorkeling activity. A day hike to the USFS fire lookout, Carpenter Mountain, allowed the group to view higher elevation plant associations, including wildflowers and other conifer/deciduous tree and shrub species.

The panoramic view of the Cascade Range from Carpenter Mt. Lookout offered an opportunity to discuss with them the geological history of the Old and New Cascades and identification of the volcanic peaks from Mt. Hood in the North, to Diamond Peak in the South.

The days spent removing invasive species taught students how to identify scotch broom, tansy, various thistles, Himalayan blackberry, St. John’s Wort, knapweed and others. They also had opportunities to utilize tools associated with invasive weed removal such as a weed wrench.

A portable sawmill operation run by owner/operator Doug Waddell and assistant Sonny Willis provided students with a first hand opportunity to view a small scale lumber producing operation utilizing fire damaged trees, salvaged and milled to specifications to be used in rebuilding a fire destroyed home.

While working on the Fire-Wise project to be completed at the Leaburg Fire Station, students were introduced to landscape design and implementation of fire resistant plant species in a real world situation.

The Restoration team completed every project goal set. Every restoration project completed was done well and greatly enhanced the local McKenzie community. The invasive weed-plant removal work done at the Challette residence on King Road, on the McKenzie campus, and on USFS property will help stem the spread of those undesirable invasives that out-compete our native species.

The trail clearing work completed on the USFS Elk/Cone Creek road system above the school will positively enhance the hiking experiences of the many folks from near and far that utilize the area, including those professionals that monitor that long-term study area.

Student work on the irrigation system on the Jim Baker property fed by Elk Creek, will allow the school to have the capacity to once again irrigate the school fields, thus reducing the amount of water sourced from the Blue River Water District. This completed project will allow more water available to homeowners in the BRW District and most likely save water expenses accrued by the McKenzie School District.

Removal of fire-killed shrubs/trees, pruning and clean up at the Blue River Post Office has already produced many appreciative comments and sentiments from the grateful public.

Lastly, the Fire-Wise design project to be completed at the Leaburg Fire Station will be another high profile resource that could dramatically help transform our communities positively by introducing property owners to fire-resistant landscape design and plant species, thus resulting in safe homes and maybe even saving lives.

Restoration student design ideas will be incorporated into a final design by Justin Demeter of the McKenzie Watershed Council, who has professional experience in this field, and which will be submitted to McKenzie Fire and Rescue.

Finally, this summer experience allowed the staff the opportunity to introduce and teach the values and concepts of teamwork. Students shared the hard work, fun and bonding that can only come by positively associating with one another, a concept we all could embrace more.


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