Crook County high school, middle school and Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council students got the chance to dig into a riparian project held recently along the banks of the Ochoco Creek - and gained some valuable insights into local conservation projects at the same time.
>Helping to plant thousands of trees and shrubs along creek and river banks were more than 100 students from Crook County.
Led by the Crooked River Watershed Council 150 students helped to plant literally thousands of trees and shrubs along Ochoco Creek near the park. Trees were also planted along Mill and McKay Creek as part of the same riparian effort.
`Riparian' is a term heard more frequently in media and by special interest groups, but its meaning may be obscure to the average person. Riparian areas are described as ecological zones along rivers and streams which are impacted by high water tables and periodic flooding leaving behind wet soils and water loving plants.
These areas are among the most productive habitats in the landscape which provide many important functions including helping to reduce the threat of flood and providing habitats for wildlife.
The watershed council has facilitated numerous riparian and flood plain tree plantings over the past year including this most recent one involving Crook County students.
High school students from Allen Beekman's class along with middle school students from Jessica Moore's class were among those who participated in a planting project along Ochoco Creek.
Watershed Council's Tina Whitman explained that the planting project was implemented following the construction of the new weir along the creek.
"After the flood took out the old system, the weir was built into the stream which allows for fish to pass safely downstream. The construction efforts left a ton of large rocks along the stream which is where we planted willow cuttings. Our objective was to place plants along that rock to try to get more of a soft edge in there," Whitman explained. "We were able to plant a couple of thousand trees along there and around that structure with the help of the students."
Whitman explained that the Watershed Council got students involved in the planting process both as an educational effort and as an economical way to get a lot of plants planted quickly.
"During restoration plantings we try to operate as cost effectively as possible. So, we planted much smaller plants, but many more of them - along with willow cuttings. The idea is to let the plants go naturally without following up with a lot of extra effort like fertilizer or worrying about beaver. We had so many plants to plant quickly and we needed the kids to help get the work done."
Whitman added that they were also interested in having younger people involved at that particular site due to the fact that it's a popular place for teens to hang out.
"Where the old dam site was is a popular fishing place for kids and it's right next to the skate park," she said.
"This was a good way to let them know what's going on and why things have changed -and give them a chance to learn about the different kinds of plants that are part of the riparian project. It will also give them a chance to see the effects of their own efforts over time."
Whitman added that the Watershed Council is very appreciative of the efforts of the teachers and students who participated in the project.