A Growing Solution

FRENCH CREEK – While sediment reaching water sources is a growing problem in Chautauqua County, the students at Clymer Central School are working on a growing solution.

On an in-service day last week, nine students from Clymer Central School volunteered to get up and go to school anyway; however, the curriculum was a bit different than normal.

Instead of carrying around books and taking tests, the students were taken to a segment of French Creek outside of Sherman, where they planted more than 5,000 tree stalks to help create a buffer zone around French Creek.

“That’s what this riparian zone restoration project is all about,” said David VanEarden, Clymer teacher. “It’s about buffering the edge. So these (students) went down the line of the stream and dug a small hole and stuck a shoot in there. In a few years, those will form their own roots and start on the way toward becoming a fully grown tree. It will take years, but once the thousands of shoots that we’ve planted sprout, there’s going to be a formidable buffer zone along the creek to help keep sediment in place.”

While the location for the restoration project was outside of Sherman, the Clymer students understand that they’re downstream of Sherman, and stopping creek turbidity in Sherman would mean clear water in Clymer.

“What goes in the (water supply) goes into your body one way or another,” said Megan Clark, Clymer student. “Especially around agricultural areas, there’s an increased risk of sediment finding its way into a water source. We’re obviously trying to stop that from happening.”

Coincidentally, Slab City Organics is just up the road from the restoration site, and though the owner was not available for comment, VanEarden was able to reiterate his comments on the project.

“When he found out about what we were doing, he asked me, ‘How can I get on board with this,'” said VanEarden. “I just told him, ‘Invite us. That’s all you need to do.'”

Slab City produces and manufactures topsoil, so the more quality topsoil that can be retained instead of swept away by French Creek, the better business is for him.

Though only a handful of students from Clymer participated this year, nearly 120 students from three schools participated last year.

“We’re going to continue to network and get these other schools hooked,” said VanEarden. “It’s a growing concern across the county. It doesn’t matter if you help out French Creek or Goose Creek or any creek for that matter, because it’s all going to the same place eventually.”

Schools in the area that are interested in starting their own riparian zone restoration project can contact VanEarden for more information at 499-0556.

“It’s amazing how resilient nature is,” said VanEarden. “As soon as you stop tilling, you get pioneer species coming in. So if we can help nature get ahead of the curve, we’d be happy about that. You keep coming back every year, and before you know it, (turbidity) isn’t an issue.