PEDEE — Luckiamute Valley Charter School seventh-grader Chris Seiber wore his favorite pants to school on April 14. That was a mistake.
By the afternoon, he was covered in mud — along with the rest of his class. Dodging rain and hail, LVCS seventh- and eighth-graders helped staff from the Luckiamute Watershed Council (LWC) remove invasive ivy from Ritner Creek Park on Gage Road near Pedee.
“You should have made the announcement sooner,” Seiber said to teacher Steve Diehl, referring to the warning about attire for the afternoon’s project.
Diehl reminded Seiber that the school did, in fact, provide enough notice for the kids to plan. But Seiber didn’t seem to mind much; the mud was for a good cause, after all.
“I love to help people,” Seiber said as he pulled on a stubborn piece of ivy hanging from a tree in the park. “Ivy looks natural, but it would be much nicer if there were flowers or other plants growing here.”
Suzanne Teller, LWC’s outreach specialist who organized the work party, couldn’t agree more.
Ivy had taken over the park on one side of the creek and had jumped the boundary onto private property. Teller and the two classes spent five hours working in two shifts clearing the ivy — which means raking it, clipping it and pulling it off the ground and out of trees.
“As you can see, it’s the carpet around here,” Teller said, pointing to the ivy-infested ground. “We are really lucky it stayed on this side of the creek.”
Covered in mud and wielding rakes and clippers, the students made the most of the soggy day. They cut the ivy out of trees as high as they could reach, as well as have clearer space around trees to keep it from growing back. Teller said the rest will die and fall to the ground. On the ground level, they raked the ivy loose and pulled it out.
“Even though we are on them to keep working, they’re actually doing pretty well,” Diehl said. “Our school has been trying to look for community projects to get involved in.”
Once the students were finished with the manual labor, the area will be sprayed with herbicides in
hopes of keeping the ivy at bay for two years, Teller said.
LWC received grants from Meyer Memorial Trust and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board for the clearing project, something the council had wanted to do for a number of years. Teller said the partnership with the school was the last piece needed to get the project off the ground.
She said the council has been searching for more opportunities for educational outreach and given the park is just minutes away from LVCS middle school campus in Pedee, it seemed a natural fit.
“And the partnership with the school made it a stronger (grant) application,” Teller said, adding the day was so successful, the council will likely try to find more opportunities for students. “We will definitely be calling on these guys again.”
LVCS teacher Daniel Shimek the ivy-clearing project gives his students “a little sense of community” and prepares them for the community service projects may have to tackle in high school or college.
Seiber sounds as though he will be ready, though he may want to pick project that keeps him indoors next time.
“It makes me want to go out and do more stuff,” he said. “But I don’t think ivy is my thing – or pulling weeds. I think mowing the lawn is the best I can do outside.”