Restoration: SHS Environmental Club plans to rehabilitate Silver Creek

April 2019 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community

By Melissa Wagoner

“People think of pollution like a diaper floating in the creek,” Alison Stolfus, a teacher in the Science Department at Silverton High School, laughed. “But it’s sediment and heat and level of flow. Silver Creek needs help now.”

Originally a field biologist, Stolfus has taught Environmental Science for 17 years. Now she is taking her students’ education one step further and, with the help of senior Ally Leboeuf starting an Environmental Club.

“I want to make it a student-led leadership opportunity,” Stolfus said. “My kids are way more creative. They have great imagination because they haven’t really been told ‘no’ that
much yet.”

Although the club only has five members so far, they have big plans – repairing the riparian zone along the entirety of Silver Creek, which is currently overgrown with invasive species like Japanese knotweed and English ivy.

“We always talk about Silver Falls and how beautiful it is but it’s also dying,” Leboeuf said. “The stream health is horrible. There’s not all the natural fish that used to be there 20 years ago.”

Stolfus agreed adding, “I feel like Silverton already has a sense of place and hometown pride. This is just adding the science to that.”

As part of Stolfus’ Environmental Science Class her students study stream morphology, fisheries, wetlands and water quality. While conducting research they have noted not only an increase in sediment and a decrease in flow but an increase in temperature that has resulted in animal specimens – such as toads and bass – that do not belong in freshwater streams. Much of the problem, Stolfus suspects, can be remedied through the removal of creek-side invasive plant species and the replanting of native ones.

“If there’s green stuff and clean water people say, ‘What else do you need?’” Stolfus said. “But honestly, if there was a diaper it would be so much easier
to fix. It’s going to take a long time to restore – pulling the ivy, monitoring the progression and replanting. It may take
a couple of years to get where we should be.”

Although the job is a big one, the Environmental Club’s plan is to work on the creek one section at a time.

“In my dream, a landowner would call us, we would walk the property, give them guidelines and then help them do the work if they want it,” Stolfus said. “If the community has streamside land they can contact these kids.”

Furthering Stolfus’ goal, the club was recently the recipient of a $1,000 Teacher Grant from Maps Credit Union, which they will use to buy the tools needed to begin their project.

“If you give any teacher $1,000 they would do amazing things,” Stolfus said.

To that end, the club is already working with several landowners, including Silver Creek Fellowship and Silver Creek Family Medicine – both of which have extensive creek-front property.

“We got in contact with the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District – they’re kind of our consultants – and the Pudding River Watershed Council,” Stolfus said. “And my kids are out there all the time. They do micro-vertebrate sampling and fish sampling.”

Although the kids in the Environmental Club are gaining scientific knowledge, there are other values they are acquiring, which Stolfus thinks may be even more important.

“They get a sense of place, stewardship and connectedness,” she said. “I think it cheapens our kids if they don’t ever get shown that. I want my kids to be taken seriously and do meaningful work – they just bloom.”

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