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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday, July 16, 2004


Nature kids dig weeds

Diversity and restoration themes of the day

Express Staff Writer

"Itís a bad flood when it floods your house," said Hunter Dean, 7, during an Eco Days Camp excursion to the Big Wood River in Hailey.

But floods can be good, too, in a riparian ecosystem, said Stef Frenzl of the Wood River Land Trust. "It covers all this land with water. Sometimes it bubbles up from the ground."

Stef Frenzl with the Wood River Land Trust and Mat Gershater, founder of Mountain Adventure Tours, crouching, check out the ripwrap protecting the riverside pond at Heagle Park in Hailey during a day long environmental education adventure with Eco Days. Express photo by David N. Seelig

About a dozen children joined Frenzl and other environmental educators for a day of "enviro-tainment" sponsored by Mountain Adventure Tours and the Environmental Resource Center, both based in Ketchum.

Frenzl explained that flooding helps filter sediment out of the riverside pond, the former site of the wastewater treatment plant in Hailey by Heagle Park. Flooding also brings in frog and salamander eggs, returning diversity to the once disturbed area.

Last year the children wore yellow shirts and learned how to plant sedges.

This year red shirts are coming through town reviewing past restoration efforts and doing some of their own. The children focused on the threats posed by noxious weeds, how to protect sensitive natural areas and how to heal land that has been damaged.

The efforts appear to be having a positive impact on the Hailey pond, Frenzl said.

"This is the first year that itís been healing well," Frenzl said. "Weíre like a doctor for the land."

But, what makes the land sick?

"Toxins in the trash," said Sage Howe, 9.

In addition to litter, other problems include too much water and weeds, other children chimed in. The red shirts are not only identifying but also digging up noxious weeds.

"Knapweed creates its own herbicide and kills other plants," Frenzl said. "Itís kind of cool when you think about it. Itís not the plant thatís bad, but if itís the only plant in an area you donít have diversity."

On Wednesday the themes of the day were flooding, biodiversity and restoration. In other words, what do you do about knapweed?

"Why donít you just pull it?" asked Liam Pincus. That was the other theme of the day when the children arrived to see how noxious weeds are in control on the Howard Property in Bellevue.

"Thursday is Ďcreate your own weed day.í The kids can develop their own characteristics," said Diana Crumrine, this yearís AmeriCorps volunteer with the ERC. The group was also headed on a river romp and planned to study the unique characteristics of plants and animals that help them stake out their place in the environment, she said.

The children will earn a weed warrior badge and visit the "insectory" at the Valley Club, where middle school students are experimenting with bugs that eat knapweed.

Environmental science infuses each day, but fun and games are still part of the experience.

With secret nametags tapped to their backs, the children started off the day interrogating one another as to their nature identity. Is it soil, cottonwood tree, otter, deer, frog, fish, moose, sedge, beaver or salamander?

"Do I have blood? Am I a bird? Do I have hooves? Am I a meat eater? Do I have a tail?" Each of the questions struck a cord with the amateur naturalists and their adult supervisors.

Connecticut College student Cameron Hewitt, working with the ERC and delivering pizza for the summer, said he really enjoys exploring with the kids.

Mat Gershater, who started Mountain Adventure Tours six years ago, caught the adventures on videotape.

"Weíre a community-based organization," Gershater said. "We look for ways to interact and educate people and youth. It is good to work with the Land Trust to utilize this protected land for education. Kids can say, ĎThis is our pond. We pulled weeds here.í"

After discovering the relative health of the Hailey riverfront, the children, whose real names are Sage, Kai , Matt, Jay, Keara, Lena, Chloe, Jackson, Liam, Alex and Hunter ate lunch, went swimming and traveled to the Howard Property where restoration work is just beginning.

A community service component of the programs this year will involve the construction of composting bins at Ernest Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum that utilize worms to consume cafeteria waste, said ERC Executive Director Craig Barry, describing the summer series of weeklong programs back for a second year. "We had a grant from the Larson Foundation to green up some of these day adventure camps around town."

There are three weeks of Eco Days yet to go this summer, July 26 to 30, Aug. 9 to 13 and 16 to 20.

The program is the brainchild of Vanessa Fry, a former Americorps volunteer who is now the director of development at the ERC.

"Itís pretty cool seeing that pod with all those salamanders in it," Hunter Dean said.

For more information, contact the ERC or check out Gershaterís video of the week.

There will be a showing at the Art of Dance studio at 100 S. Leadville Avenue in Ketchum at 5 p.m. today.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.