Islands' Sounder


Orcas conservation corps started

July 18, 2013 · Updated 1:41 PM

Conservation corps members digging up invasive plants at the Connors’ property in Deer Harbor. / Contributed photo


Special to the Sounder

Thirteen Orcas Island youth and two crew leaders are working to make the island a better place.

They are called the Orcas Youth Conservation Corps, and their inaugural season got underway the end of June. A great group of local folks worked together to get the OYCC off the ground. Two crew leaders stepped up who were willing to work, paid or not. The Madrona Institute of San Juan Island provided guidance and organizational sponsorship. And the season began, even without the anticipated grant funding.

In fact, there have been small and large donations that will now help the crew to get a little recompense this summer. An anonymous $1,000 donor kicked things off. Many people have contributed small amounts at Island Market, Island Hardware’s Summer Celebration, and the Farmers’ Market. More than $250 was contributed at these venues. Bob and Phyllis Henigson have sent in a $1,500 check.

The crew and the steering committee are grateful to all who have given of their time and money to get this program off the ground.  Although there are many thousands of dollars left to raise for a full eight-week season, this is a wonderful start.

In the grand tradition of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Moran State Park was the site of the first day of tool training and work.  After lunch the crew pruned a “tall trail” on the South Boundary trail to accommodate horses and riders.

“This program helps us to learn new skills that we can use in the future, and helps teach us patience,” said corps member Maggie Toombs. “And we make new friends.”

This week the corps took on work at the Connors’ property in Deer Harbor, which is in a permanent conservation easement under the Preservation Trust. The Connors also offered to loan the crew tools for their summer work.

Meg and Bob Conner and Ken Brown were all present to help the crew understand the different conservation projects that are in place at this award-winning educational site. After two days of removing invasive species, cutting trail and working with the myco-remediation bio-shield project, the kids were hot and tired.

Liam Griskey Watson summed it up: “We can help out private land owners to conserve their land.”

Other OYCC members, with smiles on their faces and sweat on their brows, chimed in.

“It teaches us endurance, physically and mentally,” said Solana Mehl Zobrist.

Olivia Brunner-Gaydos added, “It teaches us hard work, and because we’re not with our parents, we can’t just quit.”

That’s a good work ethic for anyone to learn.

A clearly satisfied Zack Kostechko spoke up next.

“We clean up the environment and help the environment,” he said.

The Bureau of Land Management has also helped financially.  Working in conjunction with Kwiaht Labs from Lopez, they will hire OYCC to help with invasive species plant control. Two projects are in the works – one for Indian Island and one for Twin Rocks.

This inaugural season will be shorter due to a lack of funds, and somewhat fluid for the same reason.  Youth aged 12 to 18 can “drop in” for a day of work by contacting Marta or Phil Branch at 376-8588. The corps works on Wednesdays and Thursdays for the next few weeks. Tax deductible donations can be made to the Madrona Institute, with a designation for OYCC at PO Box 738, Friday Harbor, WA, 98250.

It costs $700 per day to hire this working crew from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  They work on public lands, or land that has conservation status.  Contact us if your group would like to support this conservation work.

Next week the crew is scheduled to work with the Land Bank on Turtleback Mountain.


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