Youth group restores Eagle wetlands
At first glance a bottle of antacids has very little to do with a wetland.But as the Battle Mountain High School’s girl’s soccer team learned Wednesday, there’s a lot more to a wetland than a marshy place near a creek where grass grows. For starters, a wetland neutralizes the stormwater and pesticides that run off into nearby creeks – much like a Tums for the environment, said Jessica Barksdale, an educator from the Gore Range Natural Science School. When Nicole Penwill learned that her soccer team would be restoring wetlands in the Eagle Ranch golf course, she didn’t know what to expect. “It was kind of a mystery,” the Battle Mountain sophomore said. “I was just told to wear my shoes and prepare to get dirty.”The team, working through the county’s Youth Conservation Corps program, spent most of Wednesday getting dirty, but also helping the environment and having a bit of fun, too. While building Eagle Ranch, a large subdivision south of Eagle, several wetlands were destroyed, said Kent Rose, construction manager for the community. While the developers had a permit to destroy the wetlands, they are responsible for restoring them, and then some.
“You have to create two times as much as you disturbed,” he said. Eagle Ranch has already created 6 acres worth of wetlands throughout the community. About two more acres are left to build and Rose decided to turn to the youth group for some help.”We’re here to have fun and work a little bit,” Rose told the group of 14 teenage girls.And with sunny skies overhead and the crack of golf balls echoing in the air, they went to work. Because Eagle Ranch must restore twice as much as was destroyed, the group spent the morning building a dam in Abrams Creek, which runs by the clubhouse. Lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, the girls handed down rocks to place in the creek. As water began overflowing onto nearby dry land, a handful of girls, ankle-deep in water, used shovels and pick-axes to create channels for the diverted water to flow. As one pushed the shovel into the wet soil, it made a loud sucking sound.”Excuse me,” she said, with a giggle.The work was dirty, but a learning experience. Tanya Solis, a sophomore, said she knew little about wetlands before the project.
“It’s fun, getting wet, hanging out with your friends,” she said. The goal was to widen the wetlands to an average of 10 feet on either side of the creek, Rose said. After widening the wetlands, the girls planted native grasses and seeds, such as common three-square and Nebraska wedge grass, along the newly created marsh. The girls’ team plans to use the money they earn from the job to buy new uniforms and equipment. Budgets for sports teams are declining, said coach David Cope. “Well, we’re girls so it’s kind of an issue,” said senior Allison O’Neill referring funding for girls’ sports.O’Neill and classmate Kelsey Abbott said the team shared jerseys with the boys’ team up until last year. The jerseys were often too big, didn’t match and had holes in the armpits, Abbott said. They have their own uniforms now.”We look more professional,” Abbot said.Before heading out to Eagle Ranch, the group did a few team-building exercises with Barksdale to boost morale.Solis said she liked that the whole group was working together.
“A lot of us don’t know each other very well,” she said. “This way we get to know each other.”Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by calling 949-0555, ext. 607.