Youth Enviro Squad: A Summer of Helping Nature

By Kelly Noack, OSU Extension Service

The average teenager consumes more than 11 hours of media daily. Do you think this number increases during the summer? Probably so.

However, the students involved with 4-H and the Youth Enviro Squad (YES) Club, found a better use for their time and chose to make a difference this summer instead of watching their electronic devices. Out of the youth who attended YES events this summer, most gave 30 hours or more over an eight week span of their time towards service learning within Marion County local parks and forest service land near Detroit, Oregon.

Youth active in YES vary in age from 14 to 18 years old. They all agree that YES gives them an opportunity to explore something they really care about. Each 4-H’er mentioned they were passionate about the things they do in this program and felt welcome and safe during their time with YES. One of the favorite projects the students completed this summer was rebuilding a trail at the North Fork Recreation Area a week before the eclipse. The previous trail had eroded over time and was too dangerous for some folks to tread down to the water. In some areas there was a clear ten foot drop!

The students were able to contribute to projects within 12 parks, including the well- known Silver Falls, Fishermen’s Bend, Salmon Falls and Detroit Lake, as well as Minto Brown, Riverfront Park and the Marion-Polk Food Share Youth Farm in Salem. When the students were not by the water, you could find them pulling invasive species such as Scotch Broom, Vinca, and Himalayan Blackberry off trials and within specific restoration areas.

Community leaders Steve Baldwin from Fishermen’s Bend and Jason Wagoner from Silver Falls helped the youth with projects. The squad was able to work together to identify many of the plants and trees along the way using a dichotomous key—a tool that allows the user to determine the identity of items in the natural world—and worked with Oregon State University Forestry Management student and intern, Jessica Westcott.

YES plans to meet once a month throughout the school year. If you know of a student in grades 7-12 who is interested in exploring the outdoors, learning about Marion County’s forests and watersheds, or interested in natural sciences, this is a great place to start!

Our next event will take place on September 23, 2017 for the SOLVE Beach Clean-Up from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The cost for this trip is $5, and includes lunch, transportation and supplies. Students are required to connect with and fill out liability waivers beforehand. This is a fun event that the OSU Extension Service, Marion County and 4-H continues to lead every year. We hope you can join us and learn what 4-H is all about!

Source:  Kelly Noack, OSU Extension Service, Marion County