HWA continues to promote learning, fun outdoors


CREEDE — Last week was a busy time in Creede where both kids and adults explored their natural environment and learned a thing or two along the way. What greater classroom than the great outdoors. While there were two separate events — Willow Creek Science Camp for youth and Crew Leader for Ecological Restoration training — the participants were unified in their pursuit for scientific knowledge and fun.

This was the sixth year that Headwaters Alliance (HWA) has hosted Willow Creek Science Camp, and most recently in partnership with Creede Parks and Recreation. The week-long camp, held at the Miner’s Creek Boy Scout Cabin, was led by Tanya Petach, a doctorate candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Jessie Egan, who is completing a master’s in civil engineering. The camp focused on introducing kids to science in the field.

“Curiosity is the heart of scientific inquiry, and the upper Rio Grande watershed is a magical place to foster that curiosity in a wild, fun, and question-oriented way,” says Petach. “I also find it notable that kids have no shortage of curiosity and are naturals at scientific inquiry.”

“I firmly believe there is a place in science for everyone,” adds Egan, “but science needs to be accessible. Science didn’t always come naturally to me. Starting young is so important because kids already have a limitless imagination and this innate ability to explore, discover, and push boundaries. My role is to equip young scientists with some of these skills and to help them navigate the scientific process in hopes of fueling that insatiable curiosity while most importantly having fun along the way!" 

Both were eager to have the kids experience doing field work as a scientist and had the help of local AmeriCorps members, Josephine Swift and Elliott Marshall, as well as HWA intern Taylor Johnson. Just to name a few activities, the kids took the pH of water, built beaver-inspired dams, constructed water filters from natural materials and identified plants, bugs, and rocks, not to mention the 10 different varieties of the game “tag.”

HWA hosted the Crew Leader for Ecological Restoration training, facilitated by Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC), immediately following the camp. After a rigorous morning in the classroom, participants enjoyed two days of hands-on work on the Willow Creek floodplain.

“It is inspiring to work with these dedicated volunteers in such a worthy project,” says Kim

Frederick, instructor for the training. Frederick has over 30 years of experience in trail and

riparian restoration all over the world, however, he has a soft spot for Creede where he’s worked in the past. “I welcome the opportunity to come back to Creede, work with Headwaters Alliance, and be part of the Willow Creek restoration efforts. I would do it again in a minute!” 

Participants learned skills for leading groups of volunteers, including safety, group dynamics and conflict resolution. Meanwhile, the field work included willow harvesting and planting techniques to maximize streambank stability, water filtration and natural habitat. The training helps set the foundation for future revegetation efforts. It will be a long-term project to transform the floodplain into one that is visually appealing and ecologically functional, but events like these help jumpstart the process.

“Being new to the area of Creede, I wanted to get involved with this small community,” says Denise Jennings, one of the training participants. “I love the outdoors! The leadership training was fun and informative. I look forward to helping out again in the near future.”

“The workshop was very informative and helpful,” says Sue Ehrgood, a longtime volunteer with the Willow Creek Restoration Company and HWA. “I learned a great deal about handling tools and the correct way to plant willows. It was a fun time and I got to meet and make new friends,” 

Both of these events highlight an important ingredient to successful learning and the scientific process — getting involved. Don’t miss your chance to get involved this summer and in the future with Headwaters Alliance, especially at the upcoming HWA extravaganza — Floodplain Dog Days, Aug. 20-21. The events include willow planting, the first-ever Mountain Ping Pong Tournament, After Hours Speaker Series on drought and water quality, and a dog parade and costume contest. Head to headwatersalliance.com, for more information about these events and the ongoing work at HWA.

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